The Founder

by Toby Woollaston

tf_620x310It’s that time of the year where the heavily Oscar baited biopics tend to be released. So, it was with anticipation that I headed into the theatre to see the genre’s first cab off the rank.

Initially excited over reports that the Coen brothers were interested in directing The Founder, I was met with mild disappointment upon hearing that John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), with his rather bland track record, had prevailed. Written by Robert D Siegel (The Wrestler), The Founder is based on the true story of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, and scopes the genesis of the well-known fast food giant.

The film’s title sardonically sums up its central thesis which explores to what extent Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) was indeed the founder of McDonald’s. The story is bookended by Ray’s mantra on “persistence”, whereby he casts aside arguably more noble traits as mere folly in the face of good old fashioned persistence and determination; “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common that unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Blinded by his tunnel visioned notion of persistence, Ray bulldozes his way towards success, casting aside the mild mannered Mac and Dick McDonald who first caught Ray’s eye with their original fast and efficient burger joint. Ray’s neglected wife, Ethel (Laura Dern), gets similar treatment and soon Ray, having collected a savvy bunch of advisers on the way, builds the fast food giant that we all know and have a love/hate relationship with.

On first impressions The Founder plays out a lot like David Fincher’s The Social Network, although its commentary on success and what people will do to obtain it, strikes with far less venom. Instead, it coasts along at a tame pace and the film occasionally risks stalling if not for the energetic performance by Michael Keaton who skilfully walks the tightrope of moral ignorance and myopic determination. Notable also is the cinematography which captures the era well without resorting to gimmickry. Ultimately, The Founder feels like an interesting yet somewhat uninspiring story, told through an entertaining yet somewhat conventional lens … like a tasty meal with little nutritional value.

Rating: 3 out of 5

You can see the published review here