In ‘The Founder’ Michael Keaton plays an out of luck salesman rattling around the dusty states of America trying to sell his wares. When not extolling the virtues of a milkshake machine nobody wants, he consoles himself with self-help records in his motel bedroom. His is a salesman flogging a mechanical horse just as painfully as the apologies he gives to his wife on the phone. With mounting debts and the end of rope in sight, he is suddenly jolted out of this descent with the discovery that somebody actually wants his wares – and this time, in volume.
Seemingly too good to be true he drives across states to meet this client and and without realising it, he makes a date with destiny. It’s a destiny about automation, about efficiency and a 30 second hamburger that you don’t have to wait to inline for – and it belongs to somebody else.
Michael Keaton isn’t a nice guy. When he wants to be and the role allows him to, he can be plain terrifying. However this isn’t that Michael Keaton.
Michael Keaton isn’t a nice guy. When he wants to be and the role allows him to, he can be plain terrifying. However this isn’t that Michael Keaton. This is a gradual character study of a man with a singular vision, whose dream of the future could bulldoze through the lives of those around him. Keaton’s metamorphosis into Ray Kroc is a gradual one. Wrapped in the colours of the American Dream and the idea that family values can be sold side by side with a quarter pounder burger, his character has seen the future and he can taste it.
As a dramatised version of events, ‘The Founder’ feels like it is sticking pretty closely to the truth. Keaton’s Ray Kroc is myopic in his desire but without the excessive, self-declared ruthlessness of a cartoon villain. His portrayal is of a man that has changed and in the process, sets about changing the world around him. “When will enough be enough?” asks his wife Ethel, as played by Laura Dern. Unsurprisingly this is met without answer, but instead the latest fixation on progress.
Passion can have a salty aftertaste as many of the bystanders in Ray Kroc’s journey discover. However Keaton’s gives Kroc a balanced gleam that is as undimmed as the golden arches of his next restaurant opening. In 1950’s America many revolutions happened and ‘The Founder’ is the a story about one that didn’t stop at national borders. As precisely measured as the portions in the film, ‘The Founder’s’ premise won’t be to everybody’s taste but as an absorbing, well-acted slice of history, this morality fable is undimmed. Success comes as a cost, even for those who thought they were onboard.