I’m enjoying this Michael Keaton renaissance.
“The Founder” tells the true tale of how Ray Kroc (Keaton) came to run the McDonald’s food chain and turn it into the franchised empire we know today. Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch play the McDonald brothers as Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B. J. Novak and Laura Dern also star and John Lee Hancock directs.
I liked Hancock’s previous two directorial efforts, “The Blind Side” and “Saving Mr. Banks;” they are both agreeably light and fun biopics that do justice to their subjects and feature solid work from their casts. “The Founder” is no different, giving centerpiece Michael Keaton room to play the charming but slimy Ray Kroc and supporting characters like Offerman, Lynch and Cardellini to insert some charm.
Most people think of Ray Kroc as the man who built McDonald even if they know he wasn’t the actual founder, and the film, right down to its knowingly misleading title, does not shy away from this fact. It doesn’t try to paint Kroc as a conflicted or well-intentioned man who felt bad about building an empire on the body of the McDonald brothers’ original burger shack, and for that it is to be commended. A film about Kroc’s rise to power could have sugar-coated the facts or tried to spin his character as likable, but by the end of the film Keaton, despite all his charm and clichés, has turned Kroc into someone we almost love to hate.
Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch do a great job as the brothers, two men who have a passion for their business and care more about quality than quantity. Offerman has his normal huff-and-puff charisma (although seeing him clean-shaven may take some time to getting used to) and Lynch is the film’s heart, continuously trusting Kroc even when he shouldn’t and giving everyone the benefit of the doubt because he’s simply a good person.
The film itself is crafted well and to the point like Hancock’s other works, with a clear story at its center as opposed to following the entire life of Kroc and what led him to become the way he was. Robert D. Siegel’s script, which made it onto the 2014 Blacklist for best unproduced screenplays, features some great dialogue (“if you got time to lean, you got time to clean”) and a nice pace (save for a slight lull towards the end of the second act where Hancock wants to focus on Kroc’s relationship with his wife).
There really isn’t too much wrong with “The Founder.” Like I said, it does slow a little bit when they choose to develop Kroc’s personal life to round him out as a character, but we pay to see McDonald’s being built, not his marriage getting worked on. Some side characters also come and go to the point of which it’s a little jarring because of how coincidently they’ll turn up or how little we ever hear from them again.
I really enjoyed “The Founder” and it is arguably Hancock’s best film to date. Fans of Michael Keaton or period biopics should get more than their share to enjoy, and everyone else will surely find pleasures in the film’s lighthearted and breezy nature.
Critics Rating: 8/10