‘The Founder’ Calls for Big Bites

‘The Founder’ is as persistent as its tragic hero, going against Hollywood aesthetic to bring McDonald’s hard-hitting alteration from family to royalty.

John Lee Hancock’s ‘The Founder’ is a unique biopic that doesn’t shy away from a double-edged truth.

the founder
Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

You’ve seen the Golden Arches. This shining symbol is notorious on a global scale, adding a layer of familiarity and comfort to even the most ill-prepared traveler. Then, almost instantly, the archway becomes an invitation, an alluring hand stretched out to your malnourished stomach. And finally, before you even wish to know it, you find yourself eating a Big Mac.

But how did we get to this point? What makes our mouths salivate at the sight of a giant letter “M?” Luckily, director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) hopes to answer these very inquiries with a straightforward solution: By starting from the top. The Founder, Hancock’s most recent film endeavor, gives a strong perspective of entrepreneur Ray Kroc and his domineering vision of the McDonald’s franchise.

The year is 1954. Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is your typical milkshake-machine salesman. After consistent failure, Kroc longs for something outside the box, something to put his name on the map. Hence, when he stumbles upon a revolutionary burger joint in San Bernardino, Calif., Kroc is immediately drawn to the shiny new concept.

Kroc persists the two owners, Richard and Maurice McDonald (Nick Offerman and John Carrol Lynch), with the idea of branding past their town’s borders. When the brothers finally concede, the brand soars to new heights and becomes a nationwide phenomenon. Nevertheless, as avarice takes over his climbing ego, Kroc begins to open his eyes to the potential of taking anything in his path (no matter the cost).

The Founder is an interesting twist of a character study. Rather than showing a protagonist achieving widespread acclaim among certain obstacles, this drama-biopic succumbs to a tragic hero effect. Here, we see Ray Kroc obtain not just the world’s largest fast-food franchise, but a money-grubbing persona to back it up.

Between strong leading performances and a screenplay as sharp as its edgy appeal, The Founder makes a conscious choice to test our own consciences. We become both fanatics and protesters to Kroc’s deliberate choices, giving us an unsteady balance of this hero’s qualifications. Furthermore, despite reaching the limits of his greed-driven goals, there’s a sense of emptiness to Kroc that ultimately comes with such a tragic downfall.

“Michael Keaton’s acting was both inspiring and thought-provoking,” said Jantzen Rogalski, a TV/Communications major at Montclair State University. “I couldn’t tell whether he was the good guy or the bad guy. Nevertheless, The Founder drew me into both his character and the path that he laid out for himself.”

Overall, The Founder finds itself in unbiased territory. The drama doesn’t necessarily take a stance, but has the attitude to provoke one. In the end, it’s the audience’s mission to break down McDonald’s transformation from a family gathering ground to a corporate puzzle piece. It’s our own decisive debate between dramedy and tragedy, allowing for a biopic that’s ahead of its time.

And best of all? It’s enough to leave you loving it, even past the closing credits. The Founder is now playing in movie theaters worldwide. Some more local venues include AMC Clifton Commons, AMC Loews Wayne 14 and even Bow Tie Bellevue Cinemas in the heart of Upper Montclair. For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com today.

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