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A Film Diary

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Watched: 4 August

An unusual biopic about Ray Kroc, the man who ‘joined’ McDonald’s as a kind of uninvited partner – at least that’s how it is portrayed here – and later transformed the company into the world’s biggest fast-food franchise. It’s unusual in the sense that it spends the first hour setting Kroc up as a nice guy, a dreamer with a vision and a sense of the potential of McDonald’s, and a man who has the will and belief to see it through; it’s mostly shown as being positive. The second half, however, systematically destroys his character, emphasising his rather sneaky business acumen and single-minded ruthlessness in sidelining the franchise restaurant’s real founders, Richard and Maurice McDonald, as well as his first wife Ethel (an underused Laura Dern; Kroc’s second wife doesn’t feature and his third, Ethel, is played by Linda Cardellini, who is also underused). Michael Keaton is very good in the lead role, and the film sags a little whenever he is not on screen, though in truth he’s only missing for a handful of moments. It’s an odd piece of work that appears to be celebrating an American institution at times, yet also undermining it, faintly criticising the business practices and moral decisions that transpire as it reaches (or are required to happen in order for it to reach) a certain size. It could have gone further in terms of its criticism of the company, but doubtless wouldn’t have enjoyed as much corporate cooperation as a result. It held my attention throughout, anyway. (***½)

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