Hey folks, are you ready to hate Michael Keaton? Because after seeing The Founder, you just may.
Of course, I’m not saying you’ll actually hate Keaton as a person, but you may well hate the character he plays in the film, McDonald’s “Founder,” Ray Kroc. In 1954, Kroc was a milkshake mixer salesman. He has a hard time selling just one of the things and he gets an order for six from a small hamburger stand out in San Bernardino, California called (wait for it) McDonald’s. The hamburger stand is run by two brothers, Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) McDonald and their Speedee Service System, which revolutionized the food service industry. Kroc sees the potential of such an innovation and wants to help the brothers franchise McDonald’s across the nation. However, the brothers’ strict quality control demands begin to hamper Kroc’s ability to branch out and the deal he signed with them is negatively impacting his earning potential, so he decides to go around the brothers and forge a new path for McDonald’s that leads it to become the biggest restaurant in the world. And the brothers? He completely swindles them. So, yeah, Ray Kroc was a great guy.
The Founder tells an interesting story and presents Michael Keaton in a completely despicable role, but despite that, the tale still feels a little glossed over. It almost feels like Director John Lee Hancock and Screenwriter Robert D. Siegel are protecting audiences from the really bad stuff that Kroc did and just giving us the surface level awfulness. Now, that’s not to say that Kroc didn’t do good things. He definitely had a vision and saw it through and like it or not, McDonald’s feeds a whole lot of people around the world. I just prefer more ethics in my revered businessmen. I haven’t even mentioned how he ended up with his wife, Joan (Linda Cardellini). Keaton is fantastic in the role and the supporting cast is topnotch.
Overall, The Founder is a good film, but it falls very short of great. It’s tough to tell a great story with a main character that audiences will loathe. And it definitely feels like we’re missing some details about just how underhanded Kroc was. Definitely see it for Keaton’s performance and to learn how to screw over two guys with an original idea that you’ll later pretend was your own.