The latest film by director John Lee Hancock (previously directed Saving Mr Banks and The Blind Side) is the 2016 biopic drama The Founder. The film is written by Robert D. Siegel whose most known work was 2008’s The Wrestler.
The tells the story of Ray Kroc played by Michael Keaton, a middle aged milkshake machine salesman in 1950’s USA, who would go on to establish McDonalds as a global franchise business.
Early in the story, Keaton meets Mac and Dick McDonald, 2 brothers who are running a small hamburger restaurant like no other he has seen before. Rather than the drive in’s that were so common at this time, the brothers have created a lean, highly efficient business that customers go up to the shop window and place their order, receiving their food within less than a minute.
Kroc, shocked by the innovation of the business, begins to develop the business from the small operation into a national business, although with increasing conflicts with the brothers about control of their company.
The story is of interest in the context that you know that it is now one of the most powerful brands on the planet, yet the actual story of the birth of the business is relatively unknown.
Keaton’s shines in the lead role as the near obsessed Kroc, who has spent his life trying to make it big, and believes that he has happened upon the opportunity of a lifetime. This against the backdrop though of a troubled marriage with his wife (played by Laura Dern) and the ethical challenges presented by his own ambitions conflicting with the brothers’ desire for control.
The problem is that once you’ve got the setup of this film in the first act, it’s only Keaton’s performance that holds your interest. You know roughly where the whole thing is going, and the film really only offers the specifics of the way it happened, which isn’t quite enough for the film to really make an impact.