Michael Keaton is flat-out great as Ray Kroc, the sorta-kinda founder of McDonald’s. Director John Lee Hancock’s film tells the story from when Kroc was selling milk shake mixers door-to-door up through his wife-stealing days as the head of the McDonald’s corporation. Hancock’s movie desperately wants you to like Kroc, but maybe we shouldn’t? After all, he swept in and took the name of McDonald’s from the McDonald brothers (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch), effectively cutting them out of most profits and leaving them in his dust. The film is at its best when it is in old-time, Americana mode. It’s a beautiful looking movie that captures the essence of those old timey fast food joints that replaced the traditional drive-in diners. It slows down a bit and gets a little muddled when it tries to depict Kroc as some sort of commerce hero. I suppose if they went into details about how his co-creating McDonald’s has contributed to worldwide obesity and environmental concerns, McDonald’s themselves would’ve mounted up the lawyers and put the kibosh on the whole thing. Offerman is great as the well-meaning, high-standards McDonald brother that regrets the day he met Kroc. Keaton gets high marks for a film that is ultimately uneven.
4 20th Century WomenAnnette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup shine in Mike Mills’ ode to his unusual mother, who raised him in the late ’70s and tried to like punk music as much as she could. Bening is terrific as Dorothea, perhaps the best work of her career. She represents the late ’70s woman, still cool but perhaps slowing down a bit due to too many cigarettes and a general disillusionment with certain aspects of the changing culture. Mills uses Dorothea as a sort of narrator from the future who talks about the events of the film while observing from a perch in years ahead. It’s an interesting technique, and Bening’s performance is a career milestone. Gerwig and Fanning are great as two different women who hang around Dorothea’s apartment, both with their own interesting subplots. Cruddup chimes in capably as a local handyman who will sleep with you if you ask him to. I must add, I love the way this film uses music on its soundtrack, from Talking Heads to the Buzzcocks. This is a great, accurate depiction of the late ’70s, with a vibe that feels authentic.
2 SilenceMartin Scorsese’s Silence, or, How to Torture a Jesuit Priest Until He Says, “Ah, Screw It!” and Looks for Another Gig, is the auteur’s most inconsistent offering since his misguided and sloppy Casino. It’s clear that Scorsese has poured his heart into the passion project, which makes it all the more sad that it doesn’t live up to his usual standard. The movie is far too long, and repetitive to the point where it becomes laughable rather than having the desired effect of moving the viewer. Based on the Shusaku Endo book, and a project Scorsese had been trying to mount since the ’80s, it’s nothing but a colossal waste of a great director’s time. Bored to death is not what I expect to be during a Scorsese offering, but that’s what I was watching Silence. Two Jesuit priests, Rodrigues and Garrpe (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver), head to Japan in search of their mentor priest, Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Ferreira went missing during a prior mission years ago and is rumored to have gone into hiding as a civilian with a wife. The whole setup feels a bit like Apocalypse Now, minus the excitement, capable storytelling and fat Brando. There’s a lot of violence as Japanese Christians and the priests are tortured for their beliefs. There’s also a lot of snoring as the proceedings carry on way too long.