Sunday, 9 July 2017

No. 126 : The Founder


The Founder at the IMDb

Have you ever wonder how lard slinging chain McDonalds became a worldwide brand? Me neither, but seemingly someone thought it a tale worth telling - so let’s have a look, and yes, you can have fries with that.

Michael Keaton gets his Birdman wings clipped as he stars as salesman and generally unlikeable swindle merchant Ray Kroc. It’s the early 1950’s and whilst trying to peddle milkshake machines he comes across the first McDonalds burger stand, owned and operated by Ron Swanson and his brother. The naive siblings take Ray in and basically give him the blueprints for the entire operation. Their motivations aren’t clear, apart from being good old honest working folk, but they soon regret it as Ray starts to take over.

Ray initially flounders as the founder as he’s tied into a poor contract with the brothers that sees very little money come his way. This leads to friction with his dour wife Laura Dern who basically just pulls sour faces in every scene she appears. Ray starts to branch out on his own, and after a chance meeting with Ryan from ‘The Office’, he realises that the real money is made in the restaurant property rather than from the burgers. Soon he aims to take over the business and after a few shady moves he ends up with a new wife and a shot at the big prize. Will McDonalds survive beyond the 1950’s? Will any of their patrons survive into their 50’s?

This bio-pic was Ok but you have to ask ‘why bother?’ The outcome was never really in doubt and as a viewer you had very little invested in seeing the corporate giant survive its difficult birth. Keaton’s Ray Kroc was an unlikeable and unsympathetic con man and his character arc never made it past the drive-thru. Even at the start, when he was a struggling salesman, he was a dick and the film never convinced in its notion that Ray’s corporate raiding was the result of an unfair contract or his oft mentioned perseverance. Basically he took advantage of a couple of hicks and made millions - thank you and have a bio-pic with your Happy Meal.

Of course not all bio-pic subjects have to be sympathetic but there was hardly a lot to engage with, when the big denouement centred around milk or powdered milk in the milk shakes.

The cast was pretty good with recognisable faces all over the place. Sadly most had little to do, with Ryan from ‘The Office’ a study in method acting as he scratches his chin when overhearing Ray’s financial woes at the bank. The direction was also lumpen with Ray’s drinking problem subtly suggested as he rushes for the bottle in practically every scene.

The sets and locations were good with some nice evocations of 50’s America. I liked how one outlet was shown as going to the dogs as there was a bit of litter outside! and a rough combing his hair in the car park!

Overall this was a serviceable 100 minute bio-pic that concerns a largely uninteresting subject in a world that offers little in the way of excitement - ooh will he get a bank loan?! Will there be two pickles in the bun?! Like the fast food it centred on this film was unsatisfying and will be quickly forgotten. Wait!  - No nuggets of interest!

THE Tag Line : Floundering Founder is a Filet-O-Pish 52%

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