Two films we can actually like: The Founder and Patriot's Day

The Founder

Not quite a documentary, because it’s a lot more fun than that spare and often dry genre would lead you to expect, The Founder, directed by John Lee Hancock, tells the true story (how true is anyone’s guess, since it seems to take liberties in ways the writer and director could not have supposed from the actual history) of the bold founding of the fantastic franchise we know now as McDonald’s by the storied entrepreneur and billionaire, Ray Kroc.

Writer Robert Siege (who wrote the gritty The Wrestler some years ago) spools out an imperative and fast-moving diorama of how Kroc built from strength to strength, feeding a nation impatient with home cooking and long queues in traditional eateries.

He wasn’t a billionaire at the beginning of the tale, of course.  No.  Kroc wonderfully and energetically played by Michael Keaton, always a hoot to watch is a struggling salesman from hardscrabble Illinois, meeting rejection with various household devices and labor-saving clunkers.  When he meets Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch as Mac and Nick Offerman as Dick), then running a slick, efficient burger operation in 1950s Southern California, Kroc sees the insistent glint of prolific patty proliferation. 

The brothers reluctantly sign on to the multiplication of their spiffy automatic-service notions that maximize human steps, input, and resource allocation to customers, but they don’t see the potential Kroc does.  Kroc adroitly maneuvers his way into management and control of the vast McDonald’s franchise, becoming the begums of branding that Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos (and dare we whisper, without opprobrium or frightening the horses, Donald Trump, too?) are in their respective empires.

Kroc sees more than burger beauty, as he soon trades up from a kvetchy first (Laura Dern, uncharacteristically unsympathetic) to a flashier, newer second wife, who happens inconveniently to be already in the connubial keep (spunky, gorgeous Linda Cardellini).  No prob for this dynastic shogun of shakes and fries, drive-in service, and spotless replication all over the world.

In factories, I’ve always been mesmerized by the fast-moving candy bars, Coke bottles, or frankfurters shuttling along their appointed jiggly pathways to their takers and containers.  This quick ride through the precision business of building the burger brainchild of a visionary leaves you wanting more.

Final note: Though I saw the film months ago at a long-lead screening, I still regard it fondly and could well go for seconds.  When the credits roll, you’re briefly annoyed that the film is ending.  We’re fascinated by how Kroc leveraged his smarts and intuition, his assessment of the market to be, and how he was unstoppable.

And if the movie ends too soon, you can extend the experience, maybe, with a visit to the nearest Golden Arches themselves.  Then watch how the workers carry out the magic machinations laid down by the mood-and-food magician.  Those servers don’t waste a step.  Inexpensive.  Quick.  Replicable.  Dependably what you expect.  Tasty treat.

Patriot's Day

Even trickier, in a sense, than transforming an historical up-from-rickety-to-riches story, as in The Founder.  We all lived through the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing by the ignoble Tsarnaev killer brothers and the aftermath, a citywide dragnet search for the terrorists.

Carrying the bulk of the narrative through-story is Mark Wahlberg, an actor born and raised in the Boston area and a guy whose early life was as a punk, jailed not infrequently, and running some of the seedy underworld cons common to Southey and environs.  Wahlberg plays Tommy Saunders, a composite of five different people who were in on the operational manhunt.  Doing service as the commissioner, Ed Davis, a startlingly slimmed down John Goodman, is believable and appropriately sclerotic, as is cooler, more head-centered naysayer Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers.  Wahlberg’s supportive cop’s wife is the lissome Michelle Monaghan as Carol Saunders.  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appears to be perfectly cast as materialistic, soulless, and feckless collegian-killer in actor Alex Wolff.  J.K. Simmons, as Sergeant Jeff Pugliese, plays that rarest of beings on the American cultural landscape: a happily married man, to a seriously sensual and not-pencil-thin happy wife.  When was the last time you noticed such a bizarre phenomenon in the past 35 years of Hollywoodiana?

This true story is trickier than Ray Kroc’s story in that the personal has fewer millions to cavil if the details of one guy and his rise happen to be off.  We saw, live, these events; read about them in the blogs and slogs; saw the unfolding drama in real time on TV.

But this film, too, is a standout, generating suspense and empathy for the runners who were injured, maimed, or killed, registering the tension as the police closed down the city in an unprecedented move, desperate to prevent a second bombing attack.  We see the smug unregenerate Tamerlan’s wife, and her chilling froideur in the face of her family’s gruesome preoccupation.  A standout: the downright jihadism of the elder brother Tamerlan, amazingly captured by the vulpine-ferocious Themo Melikidze.

Peter Berg gives us a party mix of public scare and reaction versus the personal, husbands and wives frightened, commiserating, and stoic.

We are becoming accustomed to special effects of things that never were and cannot be, but the effects in Patriot's Day are like the films dealing with 9/11 in New York City scarily searing.  Berg has shown himself in the past to be a masterful director, and Patriot's Day is a powerful evocation of a shared nightmare.

One of the better aspects of the movie is that unlike so many Hollywood operas, it neatly sidesteps the politically correct syrup that sludges up so much arterial movie "product."  It sounds and looks right.  The people are not P.C. weasels and primroses.  They come across as the kind of people we know exist.  We know they exist, of course, because the evidence is there in the man on the podium on 20 January.

Boston, it comes across quite clearly, is not seduced by the haphazard recklessness and louche failure to protect the American polity afflicting the Obamanagerie now thankfully leaving office.  Bostonians do their business without fuss and heroics and, in so doing, are bandolero heroic for the rest of us.

Two non-P.C., relatable flicks.  For a welcome change.

The Founder

Not quite a documentary, because it’s a lot more fun than that spare and often dry genre would lead you to expect, The Founder, directed by John Lee Hancock, tells the true story (how true is anyone’s guess, since it seems to take liberties in ways the writer and director could not have supposed from the actual history) of the bold founding of the fantastic franchise we know now as McDonald’s by the storied entrepreneur and billionaire, Ray Kroc.

Writer Robert Siege (who wrote the gritty The Wrestler some years ago) spools out an imperative and fast-moving diorama of how Kroc built from strength to strength, feeding a nation impatient with home cooking and long queues in traditional eateries.

He wasn’t a billionaire at the beginning of the tale, of course.  No.  Kroc wonderfully and energetically played by Michael Keaton, always a hoot to watch is a struggling salesman from hardscrabble Illinois, meeting rejection with various household devices and labor-saving clunkers.  When he meets Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch as Mac and Nick Offerman as Dick), then running a slick, efficient burger operation in 1950s Southern California, Kroc sees the insistent glint of prolific patty proliferation. 

The brothers reluctantly sign on to the multiplication of their spiffy automatic-service notions that maximize human steps, input, and resource allocation to customers, but they don’t see the potential Kroc does.  Kroc adroitly maneuvers his way into management and control of the vast McDonald’s franchise, becoming the begums of branding that Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos (and dare we whisper, without opprobrium or frightening the horses, Donald Trump, too?) are in their respective empires.

Kroc sees more than burger beauty, as he soon trades up from a kvetchy first (Laura Dern, uncharacteristically unsympathetic) to a flashier, newer second wife, who happens inconveniently to be already in the connubial keep (spunky, gorgeous Linda Cardellini).  No prob for this dynastic shogun of shakes and fries, drive-in service, and spotless replication all over the world.

In factories, I’ve always been mesmerized by the fast-moving candy bars, Coke bottles, or frankfurters shuttling along their appointed jiggly pathways to their takers and containers.  This quick ride through the precision business of building the burger brainchild of a visionary leaves you wanting more.

Final note: Though I saw the film months ago at a long-lead screening, I still regard it fondly and could well go for seconds.  When the credits roll, you’re briefly annoyed that the film is ending.  We’re fascinated by how Kroc leveraged his smarts and intuition, his assessment of the market to be, and how he was unstoppable.

And if the movie ends too soon, you can extend the experience, maybe, with a visit to the nearest Golden Arches themselves.  Then watch how the workers carry out the magic machinations laid down by the mood-and-food magician.  Those servers don’t waste a step.  Inexpensive.  Quick.  Replicable.  Dependably what you expect.  Tasty treat.

Patriot's Day

Even trickier, in a sense, than transforming an historical up-from-rickety-to-riches story, as in The Founder.  We all lived through the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing by the ignoble Tsarnaev killer brothers and the aftermath, a citywide dragnet search for the terrorists.

Carrying the bulk of the narrative through-story is Mark Wahlberg, an actor born and raised in the Boston area and a guy whose early life was as a punk, jailed not infrequently, and running some of the seedy underworld cons common to Southey and environs.  Wahlberg plays Tommy Saunders, a composite of five different people who were in on the operational manhunt.  Doing service as the commissioner, Ed Davis, a startlingly slimmed down John Goodman, is believable and appropriately sclerotic, as is cooler, more head-centered naysayer Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers.  Wahlberg’s supportive cop’s wife is the lissome Michelle Monaghan as Carol Saunders.  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appears to be perfectly cast as materialistic, soulless, and feckless collegian-killer in actor Alex Wolff.  J.K. Simmons, as Sergeant Jeff Pugliese, plays that rarest of beings on the American cultural landscape: a happily married man, to a seriously sensual and not-pencil-thin happy wife.  When was the last time you noticed such a bizarre phenomenon in the past 35 years of Hollywoodiana?

This true story is trickier than Ray Kroc’s story in that the personal has fewer millions to cavil if the details of one guy and his rise happen to be off.  We saw, live, these events; read about them in the blogs and slogs; saw the unfolding drama in real time on TV.

But this film, too, is a standout, generating suspense and empathy for the runners who were injured, maimed, or killed, registering the tension as the police closed down the city in an unprecedented move, desperate to prevent a second bombing attack.  We see the smug unregenerate Tamerlan’s wife, and her chilling froideur in the face of her family’s gruesome preoccupation.  A standout: the downright jihadism of the elder brother Tamerlan, amazingly captured by the vulpine-ferocious Themo Melikidze.

Peter Berg gives us a party mix of public scare and reaction versus the personal, husbands and wives frightened, commiserating, and stoic.

We are becoming accustomed to special effects of things that never were and cannot be, but the effects in Patriot's Day are like the films dealing with 9/11 in New York City scarily searing.  Berg has shown himself in the past to be a masterful director, and Patriot's Day is a powerful evocation of a shared nightmare.

One of the better aspects of the movie is that unlike so many Hollywood operas, it neatly sidesteps the politically correct syrup that sludges up so much arterial movie "product."  It sounds and looks right.  The people are not P.C. weasels and primroses.  They come across as the kind of people we know exist.  We know they exist, of course, because the evidence is there in the man on the podium on 20 January.

Boston, it comes across quite clearly, is not seduced by the haphazard recklessness and louche failure to protect the American polity afflicting the Obamanagerie now thankfully leaving office.  Bostonians do their business without fuss and heroics and, in so doing, are bandolero heroic for the rest of us.

Two non-P.C., relatable flicks.  For a welcome change.

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