'The Founder' by John Lee Hancock Review: The American dream gone wrong

in Movies & TV Showslast year


Fortunately, it didn't take me too long tonight to find something to watch as I browsed through Amazon Prime Video. A few short minutes of scrolling and I saw a film that I had been putting off for a long time now, but I wasn't really sure why. Sometimes I feel like I ignore films without really realising, even having heard good things. Only to finally give in and check them out only to be surprised, uncertain as to why I seemed to overlook these things in the first place. Well, The Founder is that film, having seen it on multiple streaming services throughout the years and actually being quite a fan of Michael Keaton's performances. The last film I saw featuring him being the very creative Birdman. To no surprise, his performance here in The Founder is excellent. Even if the film did slowly make me angry!

The Founder tells the story of the American dream. The ways in which citizens, perhaps more so in the past, could become entrepreneurs and take a chance at making something of themselves in America. Though the American dream doesn't come with its faults. The struggles of launching a business. The greed that ensues from those around you in pursuit of generating the maximum amount of money possible. And the very depressing realisation that the mass creation of something tends to result in the loss of quality, as higher production numbers means convenience over experience. There have been plenty of films about the corporate struggles in the past, though I haven't seen one that tells the story of the fast food chain McDonald's.

Surprisingly the chain has a pretty dark history, full of backstabbing, manipulation, and greed. Where the idea of the American dream is tipped upside down.

The Founder


The film starts off following around Ray Kroc, a struggling businessman attempting to sell milkshake machines to various locations around the area. Failing, running through the same speech with each person he comes across in attempt to get some sales. Things clearly aren't working out for this character. Though through these struggles the film also established the time and setting. The time of American diners and drive-in restaurants. These locations sticking to a very established formula of having their customers drive up, order from the cars, and have their food later given to them to eat from a tray. Watching Ray attempt to generate a few sales and linger around these areas, we see him as a man with plenty of ambition; one that is desperate in his pursuit to make something of himself. It is highly effective at presenting him as a person that is kicked down by society, but one that refuses to give up. It doesn't take long at all for you to feel bad for his character, seeing someone try and get endless rejections isn't easy.

I found this part of the film quite fun, showing the different time period and the strange, almost backward nature of how such basic things were conducted. Immediately we see that there is a gap to fill within this space. But most importantly we dive straight into some character introduction and slow development, done through a manner where the storytelling is still the main focus, but also immediately pulling on your empathy and you quickly begin to root for Ray. Eventually Ray does get a little bit of a break, getting a phone call that states someone has actually placed orders for his machines. Visiting the location, it is none other than the first McDonald's restaurant. Owned by two very smart and passionate brothers. Funnily, when you think of McDonald's these days, you think of horrible slop, food processed and thrown together lazily. Terrible for your health, and really nothing of quality. For many it is a place of convenience when laziness kicks in. Though the film makes it clear that in the past this was very much not the case. The two creators were incredibly efficient, mapping out the restaurant in attempt to promote speed over production without putting quality at risk. Having a very specific routine and idea as to how things should be cooked and presented. There's a wholesome notion to this area of the film as it displays the first McDonald's as something of the American dream. An outcome of hard work and ambition that stems from creative minds.

We believe that capitalism is a place of freedom, where such creative minds can flourish as competition is encouraged, and new ways of thinking are necessary. But the film takes a darker turn as we see how Ray acts like a parasite on this fresh idea. Weaving himself into the business and slowly taking it over. Removing the soul from it and promoting the idea of franchising the company, to which he is earned that quality would suffer, and the magic the original location holds would be lost. Without further going into the narrative, we very quickly witness Ray turning into an evil, greedy piece of shit as he thrives for control and money. McDonald's being his break after many struggles, but one that is far from deserved, and not even his idea.

I couldn't help but find Ray's character utterly insufferable. And we are pulled along for the ride initially and tricked into feeling for him. I noticed I was feeling angry just watching the film based on the actions Ray was getting away with. Much of what works about his character is absolutely Michael Keaton's performance as him. He has such range that allows him to look friendly and welcoming, to just pure evil. The fact that the film did actually make me angry is only a sign that his performance, and the writing, were that good. An actor that can perform and make you feel hate is acting very well! Especially if you don't even notice it and slowly forget they are just acting. His demeanor completely changes and it's such a sudden one that it quickly changes the tone of the film from the chaotic and exciting nature of growing a business to just pure spite.

Moving more into the visuals, I was quite surprised at how good everything looked in the film. Especially the scenes that focused quite heavily on the older nature of the events. The 50s and 60s aesthetic that is found within clothing, vehicles, and architecture. It's clear there was some dedication in the set and costume design, and also clear a nice portio of the budget was allocated to it to ensure things looked authentic. I find a lot of films tend to rely too much on special effects or cheapen out on the costume design somehow. Though there's no faults here. the Founder looks great, even down to. The lighting. A mostly bright and colourful film with plenty to appreciate. The directing is quite simple but it works in the film's favour as something mostly quite character driven, watching the decline of a man's soul and promotion of ego. I noticed tha the film had some creative editing in parts, however. Connecting scenes together through transitions or using narrative over events to give context over their plans or operations.

Despite putting off watching it for the longest time, I have to say I really enjoyed it. It definitely makes me want to avoid McDonald's even more than I already do; though much of that is from the great performances that really pull on your emotions and ensuring you have at least some empathy. But the film also reminds us that this is an aspect of capitalism. The other side of the American dream that doesn't always work out. That might end up with hostilities.

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Para mí esta es una película bastante inspiradora de que si uno se vuelve loco fracasa en todo en la vida lo importante es estar concentrado y ser constante para lograr los objetivos me gustó mucho porque me enseñó eso y otras cosas también que ha aplicado en mi vida comercial

I haven't seen this movie, but I'll probably put it on my to-see list.

It was better than I thought it would be!