Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B. J. Novak, and Laura Dern
In theatres now
After calculating how many years off of your life the Big Mac you just ate cost you, have you ever wondered where it all started? Well the new film The Founder aims to answer that, with an origin story of McDonald’s.
The Founder stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, a middle-aged milkshake mixer salesman, who eventually becomes the owner of the multi-billion dollar fast food franchise we all know (and secretly love). The film follows Kroc as he meets Mac and Dick McDonald (played by John Carrol Lynch and a moustache-free Nick Offerman) and convinces them to turn their small but revolutionary restaurant into a franchise, before depicting the fallout between the three.
Michael Keaton’s seedy performance as Ray Kroc was the stand out aspect of the film. Throughout the film, Keaton Oscar baits his way into the truly despicable character, fully embodying the role and driving the movie forward. It serves as one of his better performances. The film’s subject matter also offered some positives, providing an intriguing insight into the foundation of the vastly popular franchise, and the specific legal loophole it grew exponentially through. As well, the film’s incorporation of real photos of the characters during some moments of exposition helped drive home the fact that the story was real and the characters were in fact based on real people.
What didn’t work:
Pretty much the rest of the movie. The plot, aside from the legal loophole moment, was nothing more than a painfully generic biopic — straightforward without any sense of ambiguity. I couldn’t think of anything in the movie’s plot or execution that made it stand out from the plethora of other Oscar-bait biopics. One of the major problems with the plot is its depiction of the passage of (or apparent lack thereof) time. The film is edited and shot, aside from a few obviously cuts and lines of exposition, in such a way that the story could take place over a couple of months or a couple of years. This makes the timeline difficult to follow and forces you to pay close attention to minute aging makeup used on the actors, something that took me out of the experience.
Another issue is the lack of of likeable or memorable characters. Michael Keaton’s Kroc became so unlikeable by midway through the film that when he does succeed, it feels wrong. The disdain for him left me feeling annoyed and apathetic to his “victory.” Every other character in the movie is one dimensional and disposable, unfortunately wasting the immense talents of Laura Dern and Patrick Wilson on their roles.
Unlike the similar story of The Social Network, where you subtly begin questioning the morality and context of Mark Zuckerburg’s creation, the conversation surrounding The Founder begins and ends definitively with, “Ray Kroc was a dick and he fucked a lot of people over.” Despite its bland characters and uninspired plot, The Founder is worth watching for Micheal Keaton’s performance and not much else. Keaton may have only starred in this to nab an Oscar nomination (after Eddie Redmayne stole the award from him in 2015), but his performance is despicably memorable.
It’s The Social Network with a side of fries. Drive through this movie in theaters, and catch it later on cable or Netflix