Casual Critics – The New American Church: A Review of “The Founder”

Editor’s Note: “Casual Critics” is a new feature we’re introducing this semester on the Jet Fuel Review Blog. It’s a weekly feature about film, written by two critics, Reno Stramaglia and Donatas Ružys. The two critics will switch off week after week, with this week’s post being written by Ružys.

Ray Kroc revolutionized the American fast food service industry in the mid-1950s by turning McDonald’s into one of the most successful and recognizable businesses in the world. John Lee Hancock’s biographical drama, The Founder (2016), depicts the true-to-life events that propelled Kroc (played by Michael Keaton) from being an obsessively ambitious shake-mixer salesman into one of the wealthiest men in the world.

Surprisingly, the film does not overly rely on the subject matter to draw in audiences. Instead, it is easy to sense the fitting selection of actors for key roles, as they naturally immerse themselves into heart of the narrative and in turn cause the audience to feel a wide range of emotions. Michael Keaton’s performance is exceptional and well deserving of recognition.

The film is accompanied by a pleasing illustration of 1950s American life. The appropriate use of lighting, color, and wardrobe make The Founder especially appealing for both the eyes, and the mind alike. It is the type of film that makes a viewer say, “this is going to be a good one,” right off the bat, simply due to the visual and sensory appeals highlighted early on.

The Founder is a true drama in the sense that it takes the viewer through a multitude of highs and lows experienced by both Ray Kroc, and the McDonald brothers. Oh, did I forget to mention the McDonald brothers, Dick and Mac? If there’re McDonald brothers, then why is Ray Kroc credited as the founder of a restaurant named after them? Well, The Founder tells it all, including the story behind those famed “Golden Arches.”

Keaton was undoubtedly the right choice to play Kroc, a man who was relentless, never satisfied, always searching for more, and 100% prepared to do what it takes to make himself better off. The true brilliance of the film is its ability to make the audience connect and feel sympathetic towards a man who is manipulative, thieving, and in the end only cares about himself and the business. Fan of the food or not, The Founder will provide intriguing historical information about the inner beginnings of a tiny family owned restaurant that would go on to become one the most recognizable names in the world: McDonald’s.

— Donatas Ružys, Film Blogger

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