Michael Keaton gives the Big Mac of performances in The Founder; a biopic about Ray Kroc, a salesman who essentially stole McDonald’s from two brothers with small ambitions, and turned it into a multi-billion dollar business. Keaton, whose career has been fascinating to watch since he returned to form in 2014’s Oscar-winning ‘Birdman’, is quite clearly the best thing about the film, playing the despicable Kroc with contemptible glee. But for all of its brilliance, not even his acting can raise this to the level of Oscar-bait it quite clearly craves.
The story of Kroc is, at the very least, in good hands here. Directed by John Lee Hancock, a filmmaker that’s no stranger to biopics after making pictures such as Saving Mr. Banks and The Blind Side, The Founder has a sturdy production that’s put together with keen efficiency. It helps that the story itself is so remarkable and genuinely shocking; one of those Hollywood-type tales in which the good guys are ripped off by somebody who is cutthroat enough and persistent enough to pounce upon the goodwill of others.
The fact that we all know the fast food restaurant, that we’ve probably all eaten there at least once in our lives, yet have never heard about the true story behind the franchise, also works in the film’s favour. Because there’s that familiarity with the subject matter, it makes the narrative all the more compelling to watch.
There’s a lot to admire about the film, even if it isn’t quite as memorable or shocking as something like The Wolf of Wall Street. The performances lift it up to a whole other level, not just Keaton’s, but those from Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch and Laura Dern as well – Dern in particularly comes close to stealing the film from right under Keaton in the frustratingly limited amount of time she’s on-screen.
For all of the good in The Founder however, it never manages to be anything more than just that. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it, but then there’s nothing that’s great about it either. Ironically, it’s exactly like eating a McDonald’s. It may be enjoyable at the time, but you will have forgotten about it minutes after its finished. It’s tasty, but not quite fulfilling.
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