It’s a story that didn’t need to be told. Ray Kroc is a leech and really, he didn’t need more publicity.
Take a McDonald’s cheeseburger: bread, mustard and ketchup, pickle, cheese, beef patty, and bread. It’s instantly recognisable and a staple of the McDonald’s menu boards. Imagine yourself ordering one, and one for each of your two friends. But wait. They’re picky, and they want some things taken out. No pickle, no cheese no Mustard for one, and no ketchup for the other. One has a soggy bun with a slab of meat, the other has something interesting but it’s definitely lacking perfection. This last one is burger equivalent to The Founder.
Michael Keaton takes off as Ray Kroc, a milkshake-mixer salesman struggling to shift units. Just as he reaches the lowest of point of his career he gets a call. An order of 6! He takes off to San Bernadino to find this ‘McDonald’s’ that needs his mixers quick. On arrival he meets the McDonald brothers (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch), who have created a brilliant and speedy system for quick and efficient service. He wants in, and he is willing to stop at nothing to get what he wants.
It’s impossible to not compare The Founder to Gold. There’s even a lawsuit going on about the films being released too close together. Even worse, Keaton utters the line “I’m gonna offer you something as precious as gold.” The ‘down on luck, unlikeable, larger than life character, with a wife he falls out of love with but still comes luckily into a large amount of money’ storyline is exactly the same. What The Founder does do better than Gold is tell its story.
The Founder manages pacing methodically and with enough vigor that it appears as a well oiled production of some quality. It also follows the original true story fairly accurately, something Gold certainly didn’t do. However, the issue comes with the actual plot. It’s a story that didn’t need to be told. Ray Kroc is a leech and really, he didn’t need more publicity. There is nothing remarkable about his story and for that reason it comes out looking slightly stale.
Keaton however, is very interesting as Kroc. He is incredibly unlikeable but does bring some magnetism to the character that isn’t there in real life. Playing Kroc to his exact personality would not have worked half as well. He is particularly efficient when bouncing from Offerman and Carroll Lynch’s McDonald brothers who play muted and increasingly agitated characters very well. The three come across very real.
At times it appears as an advert for McDonald’s, which does grate, but overall Keaton, Offerman, and Carroll Lynch are great and the production does just enough to stand out from the crowd.