Review: Michael Keaton is Superbly Gross in ‘The Founder’

Being loud, angry, determined, despicable, and full of lies is one way to make it to the top of big business in America. That behaviour got USA their 45th president and it’s also what got McDonald’s onto the map of every state and almost every country in the world. At the centre of the phenomenon is Ray Kroc, the man who swiped the signature idea for fast-food burgers from a humble pair of brothers who weren’t interested in world domination.

Michael Keaton slides into the role of Kroc like a greasy weasel, wriggling through the world of business with a slimy smile and a sober slur. His character is gross, using deception and bullying tactics to get what he wants. But while Keaton portrays a gross person superbly, the character just isn’t that compelling: you’re certainly not rooting for the guy, his motives don’t go much deeper than “I want success – everyone else can suck it,” and his relationships peel off as effortlessly as burger wrappers.

What is engrossing is the push-n-pull between Kroc and the McDonald brothers – Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman). The McDonalds take pride in their burgers, as seen in a charming flashback to how the first McDonald’s was created. Kroc just sees a business begging to boom, and when his ambitions start to tug at Mac and Dick’s code, it creates a solid tension that results in some effective back-n-forth.

Unfortunately, the brothers are too often side-lined, usually reappearing when the film wants to remind you that Kroc’s a giant jerk-hole. (Though that’s nothing compared to Laura Dern’s shadow-thin role as Unappreciated Housewife.) A stronger script could have indulged in these conflicts and complexities, but while The Founder is a well-produced look at corporate history, it’s not The McSocial Network.

‘The Founder’ Movie Times