Movie #85 2021: The Founder (2016)

Michael Keaton, Laura Dern and Nick Offerman? Yep, I’m in. Would I have watched a movie about the founding of McDonald’s if it didn’t come with some of my favourite actors? Probably not. But it all ended up more interesting than you might think.

The Founder details the true story of Ray Kroc (Keaton), a struggling salesman from Illinois who one day stumbles across a restaurant named McDonald’s, which was started up by Richard and Maurice McDonald (Offerman and John Carroll Lynch respectively). Kroc is immediately impressed by the speed in the restaurant and the identical quality of each and every burger, setting in motion his idea for making it a franchise. Things spiral however when Kroc becomes mildly obsessed with the idea, forcing the brothers to sell their own business and make it his own.

Zingy and always interesting, The Founder’s script is kind of brilliant if you ask me. Penned by Robert Siegel (The Wrestler), it’s snappy, smooth-flowing and fast-paced which is exactly what you need if your story is simply about how the McDonald’s empire was founded. One sequence stands out in particular, where the brothers explain the inception of their restaurant in a playground. Using children’s chalk to draw a map of their kitchen layout, we are privy to secrets of how everything in the restaurant is laid out so specifically in order to ensure speed of service. It doesn’t sound that interesting, but believe me, it’s a wonderful piece of filmmaking and I’ve thought about it several times since watching.

It completely baffles me how an average looking, ageing white man can have so much charisma, yet here’s Michael Keaton absolutely blowing me out of the water. He’s in every single scene and is so consistently dynamic in a performance that so strongly demands it in order to curb what could have been completely boring. 

In terms of the actual story… Fuck Ray Kroc. (The real guy, of course, not Mr. Keaton.) The Founder achieves its goal in presenting him as the definition of a capitalism-obsessed slimeball douchebag. At one point, Offerman’s character compares him to Hitler… and I don’t think that’s even unfair. I’ve seen reviews that dislike the “sympathy” this movie generates for Kroc, but it felt to me like Keaton completely nailed the character and though he started this business deal with good intentions, he becomes totally unlikeable by the end. He’s getting no sympathy from me, that’s for sure.

The Founder could have easily been a documentary, but it works nicely here as a fascinating true story biopic of sorts. There are some beautiful shots within it too that would be absent in a documentary and I’m not entirely sure why it has such average ratings from critics and the general movie watchers alike.

It won’t blow your mind, don’t get me wrong. However, I enjoyed it as an educational piece even if it’s not the most memorable movie in the world. (Except for that playground scene. I swear, it’s brilliant.)

The Founder is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Rating: ½

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