Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch
Director: John Lee Hancock
Running Time: 115 mins
The Founder is an American film about the true story of Ray Kroc, the man who turned a small but innovative burger restaurant named McDonald’s into a global fast food empire with his ambitious and ruthless business dealings.
This is such an interesting film. It’s a story that I know very little about going in, so coming out the other side feeling fully informed about something so significant was brilliant. With a fantastic lead performance by Michael Keaton, complemented by a very strong supporting cast, the film is hugely entertaining as well as fascinating, although I can’t say it’s the best-told history of all, given some issues with pacing and slightly flabby storytelling throughout.
Let’s start with what really makes this film: Michael Keaton. It’s a fantastic performance from start to finish that mixes his brilliant dramatic talents with an effortlessly likable persona that still manages to strike fear into your heart the second he turns from everyman to big businessman. Keaton’s range throughout is stunning, and he holds the centre of the film perfectly, keeping you fascinated by a pretty ruthless businessman right up to the last.
The story is also absolutely fascinating to follow. As Keaton is to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort, the plot is somewhat similar to Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street. Although by no means as excessive and profane, its focus on the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism and big business is so interesting to watch unfold, and although our main character may not be morally perfect, his ambition and drive make him a truly enthralling personality to watch throughout.
But it’s not just the story of how Ray Kroc took McDonald’s to the forefront of the new world of fast food that’s fascinating to watch, but also the history of how the world’s biggest food chain started out. Although there are times in the film’s first act where things can feel a little preachy, as if you’re watching the intro video at the beginning of the tour around the McDonald’s museum, it’s a really interesting history about the business’ humble beginnings that plays in well with Kroc’s later ruthless dealings, creating some brilliant conflict.
I was really interested by The Founder, particularly from a historical standpoint, although the same can’t quite be said for its cinematic quality. Whilst an undoubtedly fascinating watch, I can’t say that this film always plays to the strengths of its history. Early on, there is definitely too much exposition about how ‘revolutionary’ the concept of McDonald’s was, whilst a lot of the sequences involving Kroc’s personal life felt a little flabby, reinforcing a message about his character that was already very apparent.
What’s more is that the dialogue and pacing are sometimes a little clunky. Again, it’s always interesting to see the events unfold, but it occasionally feels like you’re being read a history book about the founding of McDonald’s. Particularly in the first act, things move a little too slowly, stopping too often to marvel at the genius of McDonald’s and the frustration of Kroc before his breakthrough.
However, things do get a lot better throughout, and The Founder soon turns into a massively riveting story about the ruthlessness of one businessman and the world of modern-day capitalism. With a brilliant central performance from Michael Keaton, you’ll be hooked throughout, and may even want a Big Mac on the way home, and that’s why I’m giving The Founder a 7.7 overall.