“Founder” leaves audiences hungry for more than a Big Mac
Based on the true story of Ray Kroc, the American businessman who built a fast food empire after acquiring the McDonald’s restaurant chain, John Lee Hancock’s “The Founder” is satisfying enough to watch, but seems to be missing something. Tone-wise, the film is an interesting antithesis to Hancock’s last piece of cinema, 2013’s “Saving Mr. Banks.”
“The Founder” is greatly hindered by its true-to-life storytelling format. This is simply because such an approach to filmmaking, while honorable in its attempt to depict events as they actually happened, does not follow the traditional and arguably necessary formulas. Biographical films, or “biopics,” like this prevent their characters from developing past a certain point, the characters do not learn or change their ways to the extent fictional ones do. Films such as, “The Founder” also tend to focus less on profound messages and deeper meanings. Instead, they drive home simple, biographical facts of life and conclude when the tale realistically ends, rather than when a film needs to end in order to feel complete to the viewer.
Cinematically, “The Founder” is beautiful to behold. Crisp camera quality and a plethora of interesting shots add a bit of pizzazz to the otherwise mundane glimpses at reality depicted onscreen. At the same time, such amazing camerawork can sometimes make the film feel too modern. Many characters in “The Founder” dress contemporarily, and timecards alone remind audiences they are watching events that transpired in the mid-1950s and early 1970s. Adding insult to injury, “The Founder” sometimes makes use of archive footage that is almost unwatchable on the theater screen. Such material seems out-of-place and only further emphasizes how different the film’s depiction of 20th century America is.
Without a doubt, the best part of “The Founder” is the acting. Michael Keaton is truly worthy of praise, and he absolutely shines in this film as Ray Kroc. When Keaton is onscreen, one forgets he is acting. The viewer loves to hate him in his unlikable role, and that is the mark of a truly skilled entertainer. While the supporting cast of “The Founder” is generally lackluster, sympathetic performances from Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, and John Carroll Lynch are enough to save it.
Overall, “The Founder” is a well-made film about a bad story. It leaves an aftertaste that keeps one thinking about it and almost creates a desire to see it again. For others, it leaves them as hungry for a more complete and entertaining filmgoing experience as it does for a Big Mac.