The Founder is less a film and more a newspaper feature or short biography; it’s interesting, wordy, and possesses nothing the least bit cinematic. As a result, it’s solely an interesting film, by which I mean, once you see it, you’ll say, ‘oh, interesting,’ and carry on.
While this story of Ray Kroc, a struggling salesman who took a novel idea for a restaurant in the 1950s and blew it up to become what we know as McDonald’s today, is worthy of film adaptation, this version doesn’t quite feel necessary. That is, it doesn’t work as a film. Instead of rises and falls, there are simple bumps along the way. When there is strong direction, the writing falters; when there are quick bits of dialogue and sharp barbs, the direction keeps it from becoming something compelling.
Michael Keaton does well as Kroc, bringing both humanity and pugnacity to a determined, hard-luck businessman who jumps on a big idea when he meets brothers Dick and Mac McDonald (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch). Kroc struggles to obtain finances and convince investors as well as these two restaurateurs to expand business, utilizing both charm and determination.
Yet, The Founder is directed by John Lee Hancock with little wonder or ingenuity, in turn tempering the film into something inconsequential. Unfortunately, this story of entrepreneurship about a company that some may love and others may abhor, requires above average storytelling capabilities in order to make it compelling or affecting. It’s beautiful and well-shot, but without conviction or urgency.
There is something lacking then as we proceed towards a slightly dramatic finish, an unfulfilled potential that would be required for a movie about a big idea and a big business to possess necessary heft. Instead, The Founder is intriguing but fleeting, a story worth noting in a film led by a solid lead performance the inevitably, ahem, leaves you hungry for more.