Film: “The Founder”; Director: John Lee Hancock; Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak and Justin Randell Brooke; Rating: ***1/2
The tale of “The Founder” is fascinating and motivational, but not inspiring as it leaves you vaguely unsettled with its feel-good, underdog drama.
This biopic gives an insight into the life of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), the man who acquired the hamburger brand McDonalds from two brothers; Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) McDonald, who were hard-working, quality-conscious, but unambitious and cautious operators.
Set in the 1950s, the film begins with a 50-something Kroc working as a travelling salesman selling milkshake machines to unenthusiastic restaurant owners. A chance call for a bulk order of eight milkshake machines makes him take a cross-country ride to check out his prospective client.
How Ray Kroc built his very visible, multi-dollar “American” empire, from a small take-away to a multinational McDonald’s chain, forms the crux of this tale.
The script, written by Robert Siegel is well-structured, tight and intelligently woven, not digressing from its focal point — “The Founder — Ray Kroc. Unfortunately, it is the exposition which is too verbose and the plot lacks drama and inciting moments to make it an exciting fare.
Michael Keaton, who was critically praised for his performance in the 2014 released “Birdman”, plays Ray Kroc with obvious enthusiasm. He effortlessly slides into his character and into the food business with a slimy smile and a sober slur. His character has shades of grey that surface at the opportune moment, making him despicable. Keaton portrays this gross personality with affable charm. Unfortunately for him, his character is not so compelling to make you root for him.
John Carroll Lynch as Mac, the genial older brother, and Nick Offerman as Dick, the stubborn younger sibling, make a fantastic pair. Their voices seem to mirror and echo each other and, together as a unit, they provide the exact amount of tension and chuckle to an otherwise flat narrative. It is interesting when the duo interact with Ray. Unfortunately, the brothers are too often sidelined in the larger perspective of Ray’s life.
Patrick Wilson, as Franchise Rollie Smith, is charming. It is amusing to watch him develop a funny nervousness when Ray gets introduced to his wife Joan, as he sees what is happening and yet is determined not to see it.
Laura Dern as Ray’s long-suffering wife Ethel and Linda Cardellini as the svelte Joan Smith are wasted.
On the production front, credit has to be given to the production designer Michael Corenblith and costume designer Daniel Orlandi for recreating the era with precision.
Cinematographer John Schwartzman’s frames are simple, realistic and he has managed to deliver the right visual tones of the period.
Overall, the film is well-made but lacks the zing of a tasty burger.
By Troy Ribeiro