I’m not sure what this film is trying to say. Are we supposed to admire Ray Kroc for building McDonald’s into one of the world’s largest restaurant chains? (“Restaurant”? Seriously?) Or condemn him for the unscrupulous way he went about it?
Even its title is slyly ambiguous. Because Kroc founded nothing; innovated nothing. He stole the fast-food concept (complete with the “golden arches”) from the truly innovative but fiscally naive McDonald brothers (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, both excellent) in San Bernardino in 1954, convinced them to franchise it, and then squeezed them out. Then he dumped his loyal wife (Laura Dern), and stole the spouse (Linda Cardellini) of one of his investors (Patrick Wilson).
It’s sad that this amoral, ruthless, greedy sleaze passes in some (business) circles for an American hero, and we haven’t even begun to talk about the toxic nature of the food.
But I’m ranting. Because after all the above, cinematically speaking, John Lee Hancock’s (Saving Mr. Banks) biopic is a well-made, compulsively watchable, provocative morality tale and an examination of our consumer culture even today. A must-see. Michael Keaton in the title role is at his absolute, edgy best, portraying another complex character (reference Birdman, Spotlight). His performance alone is worth the price of admission.
P.S. If Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 Super Size Me didn’t persuade you to stop eating at McDonald’s for health reasons, maybe this movie will for moral considerations. Japanese title: Founder: Hanbaga teikoku no himitsu (115 min)