Release Date: 1/20 Wide
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 115 min
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Directed by John Lee Hancock (SAVING MR. BANKS), THE FOUNDER features the true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers' speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. Writer Robert Siegel (THE WRESTLER) details how Kroc maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire. The film also stars Laura Dern as Ray Kroc’s first wife Ethel; John Carroll Lynch as Mac McDonald and Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald.
Michael Keaton deserved an Academy Award, but not for his performance in this week’s The Founder. The best performance of Keaton’s career was The Birdman. His role in that film was nuanced, genuine, and deep with a wide-range of emotion. Unfortunately, someone else had a better performance and won the Oscar that year. Since then, it feels as if Keaton has been on a hunt for a movie that will get him enough attention to win an Academy Award. The Founder isn’t that film. Keaton’s performance as Ray Kroc, the founder of the McDonald’s conglomerate, isn’t that performance.
The movie feels as if Keaton was trying too hard. There is no doubt that Ray Kroc was a character. Kroc’s deeds and misdeeds have been well documented. But, it seemed like Keaton was exaggerating most of his performance. And Keaton’s performance is everything about this film. Other actors are in it, of course. And some of those actors, especially Laura Dern (as Kroc’s wife Ethel Kroc) give compelling performances, but the title character is Keaton. So, every time that Keaton’s acting was larger than “larger than life,” I was less convinced about his performance. And it happened a lot.
My fave performances came from Nick Offerman (as Dick McDonald) and John Carroll Lynch (as Mac McDonald). I think both of them stole most of the scenes they were in. They played great off of each other and Keaton. They also provided much appreciated comic relief.
McDonald’s is an entertaining and interesting facet of Americana. We all know McDonald’s. It’s everywhere. I can literally see a franchise out of my office window. So, it is interesting to see some of the making of the burger giant in this film. But this isn’t really a story about the chain of restaurants. It isn’t called “McDonald’s,” it’s called The Founder. Anyone looking to get some real insight into the restaurants will be disappointed.
I also would have liked to see a deeper story about Kroc. The writing felt somewhat superficial. There was a lot of scratching of surfaces into the persona of Kroc, but nothing delved too deep. I was missing a complicating factor, something to give the story some excitement. All I got was a very linear story about one man’s domination of his business. The events seemed too easy, too safe.
As far as biopics go, this is a good one. It isn’t great. It would play fine at home as I didn’t feel any advantages to sitting in a theater for this one. No great cinematography. No wonderful score or soundtrack. Probably no awards consideration for The Founder. It is just an interesting story. If you’re up for an interesting story, a slice of Americana,The Founder is playing everywhere starting today.