Having cast his eye over the man behind the institution that is Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, it’s now the man at the helm of another billion-dollar business John Lee Hancock has at the centre of his movie, this time lingering over the unwavering commitment, and sheer backhanded genius, of supposed McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.
Michael Keaton continues his glowing return to the silver screen with yet another emphatic display as the immensely flawed lead role, a travelling businessman striving tirelessly to sell his mostly unwanted milkshake makers to independent diners in America. With few offers on the table, he receives a call out of the blue for a whole load of the damn things, and upon his arrival at the California based restaurant, he can see why – as punters queue around the block, each to get their hands on a McDonald’s burger. Set up by brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman), the pair have revolutionised fast food, with a real commitment to the former, promising customers their meal is served within a minute. Kroc can’t believe what he’s witnessing, and so conjures up a proposal idea, hoping to convince the reluctant brothers to turn this lone restaurant into a franchise.
The angle of this film – that the protagonist is a self-serving opportunist who will walk over whoever he needs to, just to make some quick cash – takes too long to establish, and it’s hard not to feel the picture would benefit from this being the leading focus from the offset. It’s almost as if though the filmmakers and studio were too afraid to have such a reprehensible, unlikeable character in the lead, whereas this is exactly what may have turned this mediocre endeavour into a truly brilliant one. Thankfully, Keaton turns in a magnetic display, with that charisma that is essential is understanding why anybody chosen to give Kroc the time of day in the first place, as like any good businessman, it’s not his first impression he needs to worry about, it’s the lasting impression people take issue with.
It’s not enough to give this film, and actor, an Academy Award, with Keaton deprived of being involved in the Best Picture winner three years in a row. That’s not for the want of trying though as this film ticks all the boxes, following a formula that makes for true Oscar fodder, as an overtly cinematic production that rarely surprises. That said, it is interesting to delve into the story behind the restaurant that feeds 1% of the world population – and if that customer base was a loyal one, with an intrigue in the history of the burger they’re digesting, this film may just do pretty well in the box office.