The Founder (2017)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, Kate Kneeland
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Written by: Robert D. Siegel
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min
The Founder, jumps between golly-gee willikers 1950’s folksy charm, and the ugly business practices that were developed to put a McDonald’s restaurant on every street corner. Pitting the well-intentioned and wholesome McDonald brothers (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) against the power-hungry Ray Kroc. This is a film that wants to give you a history lesson, but also attempts to explore Kroc’s involvement in the franchise. It doesn’t quite pull off either.
This isn’t a good film with one or two clear issues, or a bad film with a few redeeming qualities. Its failings in my opinion are slight, but numerous, and a bit hard to nail down. Michael Keaton’s performance is good, but I never once thought I knew who Ray Kroc was. He was just the archetype we’ve seen in a hundred movies representing corporate greed.
Laura Dern as Kroc’s long suffering wife, Ethel, isn’t given a lot to do, and Nick Offerman’s performance is more caricature than character. Carter Burwell’s score, while nice, never seemed a good fit for the film, and Robert D. Siegel’s script doesn’t clearly explain how Kroc managed to do what he did. The supposed miracle ‘speedy system’ wasn’t all that revolutionary or hard to copy, and the McDonalds name hardly seemed like anything to fight over. I got the feeling that a well-researched documentary on the company’s origins would have been more interesting, and entertaining.
Your enjoyment of this film might depend on how you feel about the fast food chain itself. These days McDonald’s fast food (as far as I can tell) doesn’t have a great reputation. It’s cheap, and bad for you. And the fact that this movie acts as a kind of two-hour ad for the company didn’t sit well with me.
If you’re a Keaton fan, I think you’ll find some value in The Founder. The film moves at a slow-ish pace, and don’t expect a detailed history lesson.
While the script doesn’t give Keaton a whole lot to work with, he’s still the best reason to see this film.