Genre: Biography, Drama, History.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, B. J. Novak, Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Wilbur Fitzgerald, Kate Kneeland, Justin Randell Brooke.
Year Of Release: 2017 (UK)
Certificate: 12A (UK)/PG-13 (US)
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: Robert Siegel
Synopsis: “The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.” IMDB
You don’t get to feed 1% of the world’s population each day and not make a few enemies, right? In this case, two in particular; the ones who created the very empire you stole as your own. McDonald’s and the “Golden Arches” logo are globally recognised as a brand that offers affordable and simple fast-food with no frills. This tells us the story, or at least a snap-shot of it, to how that came to be.
Michael Keaton is once again on winning form as Ray Kroc, the American salesman who has a dream of making it big and knows the ruthless world of business more than anyone. Keaton makes it hard to not like Kroc, despite his ruthlessness. He has enough everyman charm and determination to succeed to make you want him to succeed, but you also want him to succeed by also being nice…but if that was the case, would he succeed at all? As Keaton wonderfully delivers towards the finale, “If I saw a competitor drowning in a river, I’d walk up to him and stick a hose in his mouth. Can you honestly tell me you’d do the same.”
Keaton plays Kroc as a representation of corporate America. From firm handshakes, signing contracts and business deals, he takes us from the bottom of the ladder right to the top but not without a few stumbles. Keaton doesn’t play it hammy, nor does the story leave room for much melodrama. It focuses on the single-track mind of Kroc from the start and how much he will sacrifice and risk proving to others, and himself, that he CAN be a winner, and he WILL be a winner. It’s the ultimate success story and a very real one when the sugar-coated gloss falls away.
With wonderful support from Offerman and Lynch as the McDonald brothers, they are likeable and really get you on side early on with their wholesome family fronted business that they simply want to be a success. You can’t help feel more and more sorry for them as they continue to operate out of their one restaurant and one office, fighting the multi-million powerhouse of corporate America hounding them to cave in.
Laura Dern also gives a good performance as Ray’s long supportive, but suffering wife, Ethel. She’s the wife everyman deserves, except Ray, as even she is proof to us that dollar signs can be an awfully tempting path to follow when it comes to neglecting your marriage. It’s these relationships with are they/are they not friends and family that makes you see the reality of what McDonald’s and success mean to some.
Set in the 50s for the most part, the set and costume design are on-point with all the right vintage get-up, cars and jukebox music to absorb you into the era of Teddy-boys, Greasers and family-friendly business. While the film sags a little in the middle as Ray hits a bit of a road block in progressing the venture, the films slows down and simmers, but picks up once more to the end for a fascinating onslaught of ruthless business making at its finest.
Watching one world grow and thrive as another collapses when all you wanted was for everyone to succeed will have you conflicted – who was right, who was wrong? Could things have been done better or worse? It’s a character driven piece and a fascinating and eye-opening glimpse into what the real roots of the McDonald’s winning recipe was and how it became a global giant.
It will get little exposure in a season dominated with high-profile awards season films, but this is a mature and well-made glimpse into an American household name that, as Kroc reminds us, is more American at times than church and religion. Except the Golden Arches church will be open 7 days a week.
Corporate America at its finest, most cut-throat and most fake-smiled form.