SUNDAY TIMES - Movie review: 'The Founder' brings McDonalds' unsavoury back story to light
Sunday Times Entertainment By Tymon SMith, 2017-05-19 00:00:00.0

Movie review: 'The Founder' brings McDonalds' unsavoury back story to light

Michael Keaton in ‘The Founder’.

McDonald's: the great equalising presence of the globalised world with its golden arches and plaques bearing the image of its smiling, seemingly benevolent patriarch, Ray Krock.

The story of the restaurant, which feeds 1% of the world every day, is the focus of director John Lee Hancock's The Founder, a disconcerting examination of the ruthlessness behind the ideals of the American Dream.

Hancock, whose The Blind Side and Saving Mr Banks reinforced the idea that anything is possible in the greatest country in the world, here paints a more nuanced picture of the nasty aspects of over-achievement.

It is thanks to a stellar performance from Michael Keaton as Krock - the tired food services salesman who, when he encounters the ingeniously efficient system developed by California restaurateurs Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch), sees the opportunity for a game-changing approach to customer service and convenience.

While the mythology may paint Krock as a God figure, his relationship with the founders of the chain is murky and the film doesn't shy away from painting him in shades of grey.

Krock's empire was built at the expense of the men whose idea he first helped to spread, to the point that his ruthless need to succeed destroyed any morality he might have once had back in the days when he was crossing the country trying to convince people to buy milkshake spindles.

The earnest, good-hearted McDonald brothers end up being the empathetic victims of this film. The money-grabbing, overzealous Krock short-changed his business partners and even his devoted wife (Laura Dern).

Keaton convinces us for most of the time that his Krock is just a misunderstood soothsayer - until both the brothers and the audience realise that he's more cunning than either they or we imagined.

It is, like the product it tells the story of, a film that manages to convince us that it's convenient - until the point at which we realise it might not necessarily be all that it's cracked up to be. Yet it's held together by strong performances and a generally unsentimental approach to its subject. 

WATCH the trailer for The Founder



• A tale of oversized success built on beef and buns. — Paul Asay, Plugged In

• Keaton comes close to making you believe there's soul to go with the fries and freneticism. — Manohla Dargis, The NYTimes

• Tense, entertaining, and nostalgic yet decidedly modern, this drama is a feast of filmmaking. — S Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media

'The Founder' is in cinemas.

This article was originally published in the Times.