The Founder was a 2016 release (that wasn’t wide until well into 2017) that slipped under the radar for one reason or another. The story of McDonald’s progenitor Ray Kroc’s rise is well worth your time, even if the studio didn’t think so.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, The Founder is constructed around dreamy interludes, directorial flourishes, and fun set-ups that tie together the decade-spanning story of a man on a mission to create an industry from out the dirt. Played with devilish aplomb by Michael Keaton, Ray Kroc is portrayed as a conniving asshole who’ll step on anyone’s toes to make himself appear taller. Keaton is in every scene, is almost more villain than anti-hero, and yet still has a winning air about him.
The McDonald brothers are played by the always game John Carrol Lynch and Nick Offerman. The plucky brothers came up with the innovative “speedie system” that made food prep more efficient and eliminated the leisurely style and real dishware of the mid-century drive-in. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for the brothers that didn’t have the heart to be a part of Kroc’s vision.
One of the bigger problems with the film is that there is little focus on Kroc’s personal life, and the character of his first wife played by the usually fantastic Laura Dern is left totally unmined. Though, Linda Cardellini is a bright spot as Kroc’s—first, business partner—and then cuckolding second wife.
Hancock has become accustomed to these shiny biopics, but his style and skill has improved. Hopefully, The Founder will find a second life on TV and streaming services.