Film Review: The Founder

February 6th, 2017

The Founder theatrical poster

A movie about the origins of McDonald’s may seem like an unworthy topic for a $7 million studio film, but in fact, the story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is fascinating. Kroc, a manipulative businessman, discovers a small successful restaurant run by Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman), two brothers who have developed the idea of fast food in the 1950’s. Their attempts at franchising McDonald’s have failed and they are content to run their thriving business out of just one location. The viewer follows Kroc as he helps franchise the restaurant, and systematically gains control over the McDonald’s empire, a compelling story of sketchy business ethics and debased persistence.

However, due to the fact that the film’s protagonist is such a morally corrupt and persistently selfish man, many viewers will find it difficult to fully empathize with the story. The characters that the audience does care about are the people that Ray screws over, but, consequently, are not given nearly as much screen time as perhaps they should have. In many ways, the movie has a sense of hopelessness about it, especially since the viewer knows that in the end, McDonald’s gets franchised, becomes wildly successful, and the morally corrupt protagonist succeeds. It’s almost painful to watch at times. Another pitfall of this movie is the overuse of technical legal jargon and slow-moving dramatic scenes that lend a sense of dullness to the film. These sequences are not abundant enough to ruin the film, but may be enough to lose the interest of filmgoers who are used to big-budget action flicks.

One of the most prominent aspects of The Founder is its profound timing and cultural relevance in a society overrun by capitalist ideals and ethical debates. By telling the story of an iconic American establishment while simultaneously pointing out its debased origins, the film creates in its audience a need to critique capitalist and corporate principles. This hits home because in many ways, the film chronicles the birth of an American dream that has lead to what we know today as Trump America.

The Founder, although a bit bland and despondent at times, is an interesting biopic that makes some very appropriate critiques of societal standards and of Ray Kroc himself, the man who built an empire off of stolen ideas and corruption.

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