Not many people would have pegged Michael Keaton as an actor destined for a comeback tour de force when Birdman: or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance came out. Nor did we expect him to wow us again in Spotlight, it seems that now might be the moment for Keaton, to really show us what he can do. I have to admit these were my exact thoughts sitting down to watch his brand new feature The Founder. What could be better than Keaton giving it his best to become Ray Kroc himself, in a period accurate film about how an American staple became what it is today.
In what might possibly be the most American film of all time (and yes it has mister red-blooded American Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman, as Dick McDonald) The Founder does many things to help it stand out amongst the crowd of films that went relatively unnoticed. First and foremost, what stands out more than the birth of McDonald’s itself, even if you are not a fan of the restaurant (if that’s the right word) then curiosity should at least get you interested enough to give it a go. Luckily, you will be rewarded handsomely with a Keaton performance for the books.
Our story follows a struggling traveling salesman by the name of Ray Kroc. Kroc is, at this point, selling Milkshake Mixers to drive-in fast-food restaurants. When, as luck would have it, he happens upon two guys who are doing things much differently, Dick and Mac McDonald. Kroc finds himself both in awe and struck with inspiration by what the two brothers have managed to create in their little slice of the world. After getting the full tour and learning their patented Speedy System, Kroc takes the opportunity and tries to “help” the two get their idea to become a national chain. The question is can Kroc make his dreams come true before he lets greed take him over?
Keaton is utterly convincing. From moment number one, I was convinced that he was this man so set on being a success no matter the cost. What is truly great about this story is how familiar it feels. Everyone had been to the famous restaurant chain and most of us have never wondered how it came to be what it is now. For most of us, it has always just been the biggest fast food restaurant in the world. What you don’t expect is to have such a divided view on the matter and such dichotomy to the story whose roots run so deep in America. I was most surprised how I loved hearing and seeing the story of the McDonald brothers, Nick Offerman does well to embody the stoic facade of Dick McDonald, the man that tried so hard to resist Kroc and his crazy dream.
The Film 4/5
John Lee Hancock takes the helm at yet another film that requires style and finesse. Previously working on a film that required a strong need for that same sense of style (Saving Mr. Banks) it only makes sense that he would once again work with the same production designer, Michael Corenblith. Corenblith is known for his incredible attention to detail and visual appeal when it comes to his designs and that is exactly what this film needed. With such outstanding production sets, Blu-ray is an absolutely perfect way to display the vibrant and unique settings from one moment to another. Even though I didn’t experience the film in theaters, I did find it to be a more than enjoyable experience here at home.
Picture Quality 5/5
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I have no troubles with the audio presentation for this release. I normally have to have the subtitles on no matter what the title may be but I found they maintained a good mix for home viewing throughout. One thing that stands out when watching the film is the unique score that lays the bedrock that is this dynamic tale of capitalism and ultimately greed. As far as getting lucky for picking a conductor, they may have hit the jackpot. Heading up the music is Carter Burwell who is well known for his work on films like Being John Malkovich, O, Brother Where Art Thou, Carol, and Hail Caeser, and like his previous work this film has a distinct tone throughout and fits perfectly with the overall tone of the film.
Audio Quality 5/5
I got to say that at first glance I absolutely love the artwork for this case. Not only does it do well to stand out on the shelf, It also fits really well to the story and overall tone, donning the ever familiar golden arches and color scheme that is so easily identifiable. It also has a nice weight and feel to it, which may be a small factor but I hate when the packaging feels flimsy and cheap. The inside, on the other hand, is a bit disappointing. We have two discs that both come without any artwork. This seems like a hugely missed opportunity considering the subject matter and how easily and cheaply they could have come up with something. Beyond that, we have eco cutouts behind each disc and the inside case still manages to have a sturdy feel to it overall. I will say that my slip came slightly bent, this is most likely not indicative of manufacturing and more to do with shipping and handling, however odds are that at least half of you may order this item and notice the crease at the top of the slipcover under the “Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital HD” segment.
The Packaging 3/5
My instinct is to say that we do not get a lot when it comes to special features for this film. However, I am not exactly sure that is the case. I do think this release is an example of a new trend we may be seeing where the featurettes are thrown into a “gallery” section instead of being listed separately. I am not sure whether or not this is a good trend or not, if it replaces some of the typical items we see that always pass over anyway then I am all for it. The featurettes that we do find in the gallery are lengthy and have some really great content that only adds to the experience overall. The Special Features included are as follows:
- Behind the Scenes Gallery
- The Story behind the Story
- A featurette all about how this part of this story hasn’t been told and how this comes across so different than any other story
- Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc
- We find out just how transformative Keaton is in embodying Ray Kroc
- The McDonald Brothers
- We get to taker a closer look at the real story of the McDonald Brothers
- The Production Design
- A really great behind the scenes look at how the production design came to be, this was a really cool look at how they made everything seem so accurate for the time period.
- Building McDonald’s: Time Lapse Video
- A Short Time Lapse of the Golden Arch McDonald’s being built
- The Story behind the Story
- Press Conference with Filmmakers and Cast
- We get to watch a press conference for the film and hear from producers, writers, and cast.
Special Features 4/5
The Founder does something interesting. It takes a story you think you know and point blank tells it the way it actually happened instead. I am very nearly surprised to see they left the cliche “untold story” gimmick out of the title. That’s really what stays with you, this place that presumably everyone you know has been to, started as something completely different and possibly beautiful in its own way. What stands out the most to me is the style of the film. The film has a unique look and feel to it and it all feels very period accurate and authentic overall. The film has such a great balance overall to it and Keaton does well to maintain a consistent level to it. I would recommend this film to anyone who is curious about the tale and is a fan of Keaton’s work overall. You can purchase this film HERE.
Overall 4/5 -Highly Recommended