Starring: Michael Keaton, John Carroll Lynch, Nick Offerman, Linda Cardellini, Laura Dern
Director: John Lee Hancock
Who would have thought that a film about the founding of McDonald’s could be so engaging?
Perhaps it’s due to Michael Keaton’s particular quality of being likable and a bit crazy, a bit off at the same time. There were times he made me laugh, and times I wanted him to win and other times… I just shook my head. He plays Ray Kroc, a man who was a milkshake machine salesman in the 50’s, who comes across a diner whose kitchen is optimized to create delicious food at a faster rate. The creator of the business are two brothers, whose last name just happens to be McDonald (Lynch and Offerman).
Kroc can see that he’s onto a good thing, and inspired by their incredible ideas, he approaches them with an idea to start a franchise, but the brothers have tried this themselves, and were unsuccessful. They’re reluctant. Kroc takes on the work of creating the franchise, and soon the brothers start to feel that their own business is being taken away from them.
In later years, Kroc called himself the Founder of McDonalds, and I suppose he was, really. Though the ideas weren’t his, he made them more than the small, local business they were. In the film, you can see how much work this was, and perhaps it’s understandable that he wanted credit for the work that he did, and yet, there’s a line that slowly gets crossed, that gets pushed and pushed. And for me, that’s where the fascination of the film lies. Kroc is a man on a mission, and no one can get in his way, but he has also been a nobody, a salesman with big ideas that even his wife (Dern) get’s frustrated with supporting. As the business starts to take over, Kroc starts to do more and more to protect and grow the business, at the expense of the people around him.
The brothers are lovely, down home people, men with family values, and while they adhere to these, they’re in juxtaposition to Kroc. They’re often innocent, naive, willing to accept a handshake in situations where they will wish they had paperwork later. They don’t have the broad vision that Kroc has, but they do seem to have more warmth, more compassion.
In essence, it’s perhaps a film about greed. The more Kroc has, the less he wants to share it or share credit for it. At first this is wanting the business to grow and working against people who don’t have the imagination to grow it, but after a while, there are lines that get crossed, he feels like a colder character than he was at first, and the wide eyed faces of the two brothers as the money, the glory and their name slips through their fingers… Well, it’s just a really interesting story of a man and a huge franchise.
See It If: Michael Keaton is great in this film, if you love his films, you have to see this one. But I also think it’s a great drama, with a 50’s setting. Very interesting.