3 out of 5 stars
Director John Lee Hancock has made a career of directing biopics and has had success with The Rookie, The Blind Side and Finding Mr. Banks. This seems to give him the right pedigree to tell the mythical story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a milkshake mixer salesman who would eventually establish the largest fast food chain in the world, McDonalds. The Founder is set in the 1950s and 60s and chronicles the details of the true story of the salesman from Illinois who meets the McDonald brothers of San Bernadino, California who started a revolutionary hamburger stand. Then how the partnership helps to grow the McDonalds brand across the United States, then the eventual breakdown of their relationship and Kroc's progression to owner of the company and the name that makes children scream with delight and parents groan.
The founding of a fast food chain may not seem like the type of drama that garners attention from film studios, but this is McDonalds. For a company that goes to such great lengths to protect its image and brand, it is intriguing that they would let the public see this less than favourable portrayal of their 'founder'. To have a star who is on an upward trajectory in Hollywood as the face of this hamburger empire makes this even more tantalising.
Hancock's true-to-life portrayal of the on-the-road lifestyle of the travelling salesman is an accurate depiction of the mental anguish and desperation they experience. He is able to show why those who are cut from this cloth, like Ray Kroc, when given a sniff of potential success, pursue it with everything they have. The Founder proves that ingenuity is merely a small part of the journey to achievement. In the world of business intellectual capital has to be accompanied with passion and persistence. Also, that on the road to prosperity there are many that will be left behind in the process, some being business associates and others being family. This representation of Ray Kroc's journey becomes a success story that leaves its heart out on the pavement.
Michael Keaton was the perfect actor to embody the salesman who turns into a franchise owner and eventually becomes the self-proclaimed founder of McDonalds. His ability to be winsome and vulnerable and then to turn into a diabolical business mogul was a master class for any actor in developing chameleon-like abilities. He is surrounded by an exceptional cast, but carries the vast majority of the screen time. John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman provide the right foil for Keaton's tour-de-force of personality and manipulation. They give strong and sympathetic performances as the McDonald brothers and help to expose the vicious nature of the world of business.
Like many biopics, the challenge for Hancock is attempting to maintain the audience's attention. The storyline suffers from pacing issues. He attempts to find unique elements within Kroc's biography that have not been seen before in this genre. He is able to move through the years at a reasonable stride, but this will not appeal to the action seekers coming along to the theatre. As biopics go, this is a compelling story that will leave many less than enamoured with the founder of the Golden Arches, but does provide an engaging experience at the flicks.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
An all pervasive aspect of The Founder is the value of persistence in work and life. Does God reward persistence and is this a biblical ideal?
Persistence is also all pervasive in the Bible. Such as the woman and judge in Luke 18 and throughout Paul's writings in the New Testament. The difference between the persistence of the Bible and The Founder would be the ultimate aim of the persistence. The Bible's example is set on focusing on glorifying God or serving others, while in The Founder it is personal gain. To answer the question, yes, but the key to Godly persistence is found in the motivation and purpose.
- What does the God have to say about my job? (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 2 Thessalonians 3:10)
- Why does the Bible have to say about persistence? (Luke 18: 1-8, Galatians 6:9)
- Does God care about my life? (Matthew 6: 8, 26)