John Lee Hancock, director of 2009’s “The Blind Side” and 2013’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” directs “The Founder,” starring a large cast including Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, and Laura Dern. Is this movie on the creation of one of the biggest restaurant franchises ever worth telling, or would have it been better off doing another fast food franchise (perhaps Kentucky Fried Chicken)?
Keaton portrays businessman, Ray Kroc, as he goes from a struggling salesman selling milkshake mixers to being the founder of one of the biggest fast food empires in the world.
Having a surprising number of milkshake makers orders from a small restaurant in San Bernardino, Kroc drives over there to check it out. He gets there, the name of the place being McDonald’s, and is blown away with its quick service, quality food, and overall environment.
He meets the founders of McDonald’s, Richard “Dick” (Offerman) and Maurice “Mac” (John Carroll Lynch) McDonald, and is shown the operation behind the popular restaurant as well as its rise to popularity.
With McDonald’s constantly on his mind, Kroc later proposes to Dick and Mac on creating a franchise with the restaurant. Eventually, the McDonald’s give him the opportunity to make something out of their restaurant as long as Kroc consults them of anything that happens. From there on, viewers can expect plenty of business talk, rise of McDonald’s, and, of course, drama.
The overall story is nothing new as a lot of it actually was reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” with elements such as the main character going from a nobody to a major businessman and their use of manipulation to anyone he encounters. It’s entertaining, but nothing that was really impressive.
The cast made a lot of the standard story work. Michael Keaton has really shown his acting talent in the past few years with films such as “Birdman” and “Spotlight,” both of which won best picture and an acting nomination for him in “Birdman,” and he does it again here. He’s really unlikable during a lot of the film, much like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort, but like DiCaprio, he’s so entertaining to watch because of him getting lost in the role.
Lynch and Offerman are also a lot of fun to watch as they portray the McDonald brothers, especially Offerman. There are even times where they’re just as compelling, sometimes more than Keaton. They’re the ones that you want to root for throughout the film, mainly during the latter half as they have to keep their restaurant and Kroc in check from steering away form what the main purpose of the restaurant was in the first place.
The rest of the cast including Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, and B.J. Novak all do a good job too, just nowhere as intriguing as the three main characters.
Hancock gives some solid direction in the film as a lot of the aesthetics and pacing really work in the film and make it from being boring. While not really enjoying his work in “The Blind Side,” he did some exceptional directing in “Saving Mr. Banks”. He’s able to capture the time period well with everything fitting perfectly and never feeling like just a film.
There’s really only two issues with the film that keeps it from making it great.
The first issue is that it feels like it’s trying too hard to win awards. Many films do this during award season with some of them working and others not so much. A film like “La La Land” is something that’s obvious it’s going to get awards, but there’s so much passion and effort put into its story, characters, and themes that it’s still an entertaining movie (also include the fact that it wasn't the film's main intention). “The Founder” is still a solid movie, but felt like the effort was placed more towards winning awards, which it probably won't, than being a good movie.
The other problem is that while Keaton is delivering a great performance as Kroc, his character becomes too unlikable as the film goes on, and the ending felt very unsatisfying. Viewers always have to question biopics in terms of how accurate the story is, so it’s a bit unclear on whether or not they made Kroc unlikable for the purpose of being faithful to the original story or doing it just to make him unlikable. This isn’t a huge issue, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Overall, “The Founder” is still an enjoyable film. While it feels like a film that wants to win awards more than being a quality movie, there’s still a lot of elements here to still appreciate. From the directing, acting, and appeal on learning about one of the biggest franchises of all time, “The Founder” is definitely worth a viewing.
Grab a Big Mac, or whatever you get at McDonald’s, with some fries and a drink and see for yourself.