“The Founder” Takes On A Cut Throat Journey of The Golden Arches

By Scott Kurland

Film: The Founder
Starring; Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, B.J. Novak, Patrick Wilson, and Linda Cardellini
Rated PG-13
Director: John Lee Hancock

Have you ever wondered why biopic films always feature a well-known actor in the main role these days? That wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, "true story" films starred young unknowns like Gary Busey in “The Buddy Holly Story” or  Jennifer Lopez in "Selena". However, to get a biopic made these days, you need a headliner like Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, Meryl Streep as Julia Child, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale Jr, Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes or just Leonardo DiCaprio….he does a lot of Biographies. My point is, have you ever wondered why we need a recognizable actor as a real life person? It’s not because they’re trying to say, "look! Celebrities are just like you!" It’s because, sometimes, real-life people aren’t as wonderful as Hollywood portrays them. And when directors want to show the dark side, they need someone you know and trust. That’s why Martin Landau played known rock bottom actor and opium addict Bela Lugosi in “Ed Wood”, why Johnny Depp played Whitey Bulger, and why Leonardo Dicaprio put on a dress and played J. Edgar Hoover (told you DiCaprio likes biopics). This week’s film is John Lee Hancock’s fourth biography picture “The Founder;” which tells the story of the man who stole McDonalds. Let’s find out if it’s any good shall we? 

“The Founder” is the story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a milkshake mixer salesmen down on his luck, selling one harebrained invention after another. When Kroc gets a large order from San Bernadino, California, he travels out west to see whether or not this restaurant is legit. What he discovers is McDonald’s family restaurant and fast food establishment run by Dick & Mac McDonald (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch). Kroc is so impressed with this revolutionary restaurant he decides that he needs to get in on the action and help Mcdonalds become a franchise. What Kroc ends up doing is taking over and turning McDonalds into the fastest growing eatery of all time. Kroc will succeed at any cost including alienating his wife (Laura Dern), mortgaging his home, and cutting out the middle man…or should I say men. What unfolds is one of the biggest success stories of all time.

Going back to what I said earlier, filmmakers need a likable lead because sometimes the real-life guy ain’t so likable. That’s where Michael Keaton comes in. Keaton is a likable actor having not only made comedies in the 80’s & 90’s, but he’s also Batman. Keaton’s performance is nothing short of spectacular. You want to hate Ray Kroc and, honestly, you should hate Ray Kroc. He’s a shark, he steals ideas, claims them as his own and, to paraphrase what Kroc says in the film: “if I saw you drowning, I’d put the hose right in your mouth.” Classy right? Well Keaton takes this horrible guy and helps you understand why he’s the way he is. It’s never justified nor is it right, but you get it. You don’t like it, but you get it. Keaton’s charisma is what drives not only the character of Kroc forward, but it also floors the movie. 

What I liked the best about “The Founder” was the story of the McDonald’s brothers. Nick Offerman shines as Dick, the level- headed McDonald. Yet, it’s the performance of John Carroll Lynch that endears you to the two brothers. Lynch’s Mac just wants to do right by his brother Dick, after all the sacrifices Dick has made for Mac. Lynch never loses that heart, nor does Offerman lose the brain behind Dick. John Carroll Lynch has been a fantastic character actor for years. I first started to notice him as Drew Carey’s brother on “The Drew Carey Show”. However, it was his performance as the alleged Zodiac killer in “Zodiac” that made the world take notice. Offerman on the other hand is Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation,” so he’s just about as good as gold in my book.

John Lee Hancock  has directed “The Founder” as a well-paced film and the script provided by Robert Siegel proves why Siegel is one of the most underrated writers working in Hollywood. The premise is intriguing, the characters are well written, and the fact that it’s a true story is upsetting but also fascinating. It's like watching a wolf sneak into the hen house and go wild. I highly recommend everyone see “The Founder.” Whether it’s done in the theater or at home in rental form, see this film.

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