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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Robert D. Siegel

The Founder (2017)

Yeah, still eating at McDonald’s. Sorry, guys.

Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is just another salesman trying to get by in the world so that he can come home to his wife (Laura Dern), and have something to show for it. While on his travels one day, Ray stumbles upon this new fast-food restaurant in Illinois called McDonald’s. While there’s not much to them at first glance, the fact that they actually have only a few items on the menu and are so quick, automatically strike Ray as something that he needs to work with. So, he hatches a plan with the owners, brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman), in that he’ll help them expand and bring McDonald’s to the rest of the world. But eventually, as time rolls on, he starts to realize that there’s more money to be made in this food-joint, but the only way to do so is in having to back-stab and get rid of everyone in his life, who has loved and supported him all of these years. Also, he’ll have to get rid of Mac and Dick, leading to an all-out legal-battle that will continue to haunt the McDonald’s name until the end of time.

Okay, probably not, but still.

Yeah, this convo's about to get real weird.

Yeah, this convo’s about to get real weird.

The Founder is actually a pretty misleading title, but it works perfectly with what the rest of the movie is trying to get across. This idea that a person who thought of an idea, as smart as it may be, entitles them to some sort of power, fame and fortune, is an interesting one, especially when said person didn’t actually do anything with the idea. In the Founder, we get this sort of conflict – Ray Kroc may forever and ever be known as the one who got McDonald’s name out there to the rest of the entire world, but he didn’t find, or better yet, even invent the place, the art, the craft, and originality that went into it all in the first place.

Which begs the question: Who’s worthy of being considered “the founder”? The guys who made the place, or the guy who brought the place to where it is today?

It’s a bunch of interesting questions that, thankfully, get brought up many of times throughout the always entertaining, compelling and rather insightful tale about McDonald’s, how it got started, and how it got to be the fast-food juggernaut that it currently is today. Say what you will about McDonald’s, their crappy, fast and easy food, and even the people who work there, but it’s a place that is everywhere you look and will probably stay that way until the person is left breathing. So yes, it’s very interesting to see where it all came from and how it came to be, especially since there’s darker-beings at play surrounding this tale.

For one, director John Lee Hancock approaches Robert D. Siegel’s script in a smart way; he never allows for us to think that this is going to be some quick, fast-paced and glossy biopic about this one smart businessman who hatched this plan to become one of the richest men in the world. There’s always this idea of a darker, more sinister undercurrent here, which makes all of the ups and constantly colorful montages, in a way, seem eerie; we know that Kroc is going to eventually turn the other cheek, lose that winning-smile of his, and start to, as they love to say in the entertainment world, “break bad”, but when, where, and how it all goes down is always left in the air, making this tale a rather unpredictable one at times.

Then again, it’s also a smart and honest tale about what can happen when one person sees money-bags in their eyes and doesn’t really care about the people around them. The Founder makes us wonder whether it was all worth it for Kroc and everyone else involved with the restaurant; can you be a rich, successful and live a rather comfortable life by sticking to your principles and not letting your image get away from you? Or, do you have to get a little down in the dirt at times, hitting elbows and yeah, making some uncomfortable compromises? The Founder asks these questions, never quite comes up with a clear-cut, obvious answer and for that and that alone, it’s a very good movie.

It doesn’t ask whether or not you should go out there and support McDonald’s (which yeah, you probably shouldn’t), but it does ask whether or not someone can stay true to themselves when they want to make some money for themselves.

Sorry, guys. Should have stuck with Burger King.

Sorry, guys. Should have stuck with Burger King.

That, to me, has stayed in my head ever since.

Regardless, as Kroc, Michael Keaton gives us an amazing performance because Keaton, like the man he’s playing, always seems to have something brewing underneath the surface. On the surface, Kroc seems like a rather nice, almost squeaky-clean guy, but the more and more time we get to spend with him, the more realize that there may just be a small screw loose in his head that has him ticking like a bomb, ready to explode and lose all control. Keaton constantly has us guessing just where he’s going to go next with this person and constantly surprises us with his portrayal; while this is no doubt a person we’re supposed to have hard feelings towards, it’s kind of hard because Keaton is just so damn charming. The movie doesn’t let Kroc off the hook, though, and in today’s day and age, that’s something definitely needed.

Everyone else is pretty great, too. Laura Dern doesn’t get a whole lot to do as Kroc’s first wife, but she brings enough warmth and sympathy when is necessary; John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman are perfectly as the two brothers who came up with McDonald’s and are slowly, but surely, starting to see that dream slip away from them; Linda Cardellini shows up in a under-written role as Kroc’s second wife, but tries; B.J. Novak is perfectly slimy as the one who hits Kroc’s head the hardest with opportunities and business ideas; and Patrick Wilson, as brief as he’s here, does a solid job at seeming like a guy who may be a little smarmy, but also may just be something of a good guy, trying to make a quick buck, and oh yeah, loses his wife for it.

Chew on that, people.

Consensus: With an absolutely terrific lead performance from Michael Keaton, the Founder not only makes us question the meaning of its tale, but many others, while still giving us a smart, rather haunting portrait of a business man, with an idea, an agenda, and of course, a shady moral compass.

8.5 / 10

What an empire of morbidly obese customers.

What an empire of soon-to-be morbidly obese customers.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

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Big Fan (2009)

We don’t have fans like this in Philly…..

Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), a hardcore New York Giants football fan, struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player.

What’s pretty surprising about this film right from the get-go, is that this isn’t your ordinary sports film. You know, the big sports epics that are based on true under-dog stories with inspirational themes pouring out of its screenplay. Nope, this is not one of those movies and that’s what probably works most in its advantage.

This is the directorial debut of writer Robert D. Siegel and proves that he can find a great balance between humor and some very dark drama. The one thing that Siegel does here is act as if this film is going to be one lovable loser pic about how this one dude loves his sports team so much that he just can’t hold his excitement, and that there will be laughs a plenty here. In reality though, this film gets very, very dark at points and you honestly have no idea what Siegel is going to pull out next. You never know what these characters will do next because you never know where their heads are at and it honestly seems like this guy could take these characters anywhere. Some of this stuff is funny because it perfectly captures what it’s like to be a die-hard sports fan but then it is also very depressing for that same fact too because we realize just how lonely some of these people can actually be underneath all of the know-it-all stats from last week’s game.

The problem with a lot of this is that I feel like the film takes a huge nose-dive into some pretty grim material that it’s almost too much of a switcheroo from early before. The film doesn’t have the lightest tone you would expect in the beginning, but by about the last act it gets pretty damn dark to where you think that there is going to be some straight-up murders going on around here. Then again, don’t want to give too much away but I just want to say that it may turn off plenty of viewers where this film does try to go with itself.

Patton Oswalt shocked the hell out of me with his perfect performance in Young Adult and his performance here as Paul is pretty much the same thing around, except a little less of the comedy aspect. This guy is one funny guy, which he gets to show at some parts here, but for the rest of the flick, it’s all up to him to basically show what it’s really like to be a total loner that can’t miss a single game of his favorite team. You feel sorry for this dude Paul because you know he’s a genuinely nice dude, but he just gets stuck up at the wrong place, at the wrong time and Oswalt pulls it off pretty well. Yeah, he sort of reminds you a bit of a Travis Bickle-type by the end of the movie, but that gives you a lot more reason to care for him and root him on as he’s going through this crisis of his.

Even though Siegel really writes Paul as a very three-dimensional character, everybody else just seems like caricatures and this is what also sort of bothered me about the flick. I get that Paul’s family is supposed to be full of asshole and morons just to make him look good, but they really shoot low for these characters as if they were in some really crummy sitcom. A Certain character like Paul’s best friend, played by Kevin Corrigan has a certain dimension to him because we see him hang out with Paul and express how he feels about certain things, where half of these morons just do something completely stupid after another just to show Paul how to live. This came off to me as sloppy writing and I can give credit to Siegel for making an interesting plot go on longer and longer, but I have to say that his way of actually having us care for Paul was rather cheap considering how everyone else is so poorly written.

Consensus: Big Fan isn’t your regular sports flick that many are used to seeing, but it features a very darkly comedic feel with a great performance from Patton Oswalt. It gets a little too dark by the end but it’s also one that works by just being different and at least interesting.

6.5/10=Rental!!