John Lee Hancock shed some light on the birth of the most famous fast food chain in the entire world, McDonald’s, going through a biopic you didn’t expected; “The Founder” talks about the great American dream, it recounts the story of one of America’s symbol. It is an event that everybody took for granted, as the leading actor himself, Michael Keaton, affirmed; and for this very reason it turns out to be very shocking for the audience.
Hancock is well-recognized for the direction of the awarded “The Blind Side” in 2009 and, in 2013, “Saving Mr. Banks”, which was likewise a movie talking of another famous American capitalist who pursued his big dream. Out of curiosity, the project initially had to be directed by the Coen brothers, who appreciated the script so much that they long for its direction. Unfortunately, they had to pass the baton to Hancock because of schedule conflicts with the shooting of “Hail, Caesar!” (2016).
The movie is based on the true story of Ray Kroc, a milkshake machine salesman from Illinois, who turned a small company created by the McDonald brothers into one of the major restaurant business in the world. Kroc was impressed by the speedy system of making and serving the food and foresaw a huge potentiality for franchising McDonald products; through maneuvers and deceits, he was able to pull the company from the naive brothers and to create what today is a billion-dollars empire.
The protagonist Ray Kroc is masterfully performed by Michael Keaton; for 10 years Keaton flew under the radar, but then with “Birdman” (2014) for which he got an Oscar nomination and won the Golden Globe, he kicked off his comeback; and then “Spotlight” (2015; Academy Award for Best Picture) up until today with “The Founder”. Keaton affirmed that he is sort of having a second chance: many tempting and good proposals and a good number of fascinating characters were the driving forces that made him come back to acting with more passion than ever.
Also in “The Founder” Keaton found a role that he deserved, a protagonist who maybe cannot earn the audience’s love due to his greed and lack of morality, but who unlikely cannot be admired for his persistence and far-sightedness. The actor declares that he does not really like tearful and beloved characters: he is aware that Kroc cannot be appreciated for his humanity, but he undoubtedly was a visionary. Keaton study really hard his part, most of all he tried to fully identify himself with Kroc, seeking to get the essence of the character “because it is a biopic”: he perceived a certain degree of responsibility toward Kroc; he even took up piano lessons, in preparation for the shooting, because the protagonist used to play the piano.
The enthusiasm of Kroc grows little by little as the movie proceeds, in the end he takes a nearly maniacal attitude. In fact it is said that this is not a nice story: people are ignored (for example, Kroc’s wife, interpreted by Laura Dern) or betrayed (as McDonald brothers trust in Kroc). In this movie we witness the birth of the real self-made man, but in this case he gained success and glory at the expense of truth and moral integrity.
Co-protagonist Laura Dern affirmed to be interested in the subject precisely because of this capacity to give up the loved ones and to act through tricks for the love of a fast food and an innovative idea. The project made Laura curious and she wanted to participate even though his character is the most badly treated of all by the dedicated Kroc.
The film subtly critiques the famous American dream that everybody wants to live once in the life: betrayals, self-interested scheming, greed and deceit are the basic components of the facts; spectators, in the end, on the one hand will admire the controversial Ray Kroc, but on the other side they will be thinking about and feeling sorry for the people discarded along the way to success.