Movie Review: The Founder

My first thought upon leaving this movie, which I expressed to the gentleman watching the film at the same theater who like me had stayed until the credits were done, was, “How did the Weinstein Company screw this up.”  Before we get into the film, it is worthwhile to examine the context in which this film was made and released.  A film like this is made as “Oscar bait,” released in late December to draw attention from Oscar voters in key cities like LA and New York and then given a wide release in January to gain some word of mouth business after having received some awards nominations.  The Weinsteins botched the job, though, and this film flew completely under the radar, was not nominated for any awards, and opened weakly in such a fashion that makes it possible that the film will struggle to pay back its modest $7 million budget and has seriously damaged the credibility of The Weinstein Company in its ability to properly promote and distribute prestige film releases, as well as the power of Michael Keaton as a draw.

This is a shame, as this is actually a good movie.  I would not consider this a great movie, but it is a good one.  In fact, it would be pretty accurate to say that this movie is two good movies fighting over the movie’s soul.  On the one hand, this film wants to be a glossy Hollywood biopic of a corporate hero, namely Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame, that shows how a beaten-down but driven middle-aged salesman turned from Willy Loman to world-conquering billionaire.  On the other hand, this film wants to be an expose of corporate greed and dirty dealing from a man who stole a company and a concept for fast food created by others and left them with nothing.  This is a mix of The Blind Side and The Wolf Of Wall Street, or a film that would have seemed a bit daring perhaps in the 1980’s, but at this juncture is the sort of corporate exposè that would be authorized by the McDonald’s corporation and the Kroc estate.  Like Deadpool [1] this film wants to have it both ways, and the result is a film that is somewhat inconsistent in its tone, simultaneously exposing Kroc as as charlatan and jerk and yet lauding him at the same time as a sensitive business hero whose ambitions are shared by his second wife.

As a film, its inconsistency in tone goes along with its inconsistency in pacing.  This is a film that skips over several years as it rushes towards its end, showing Kroc practicing a speech that he will give with future President Reagan along with him while his supportive second wife encourages him, but it skips over the entire courtship between them.  In contrast to this quick clip, which is also seen on occasions such as those showing the spread of McDonald’s franchises, there are moments of this film that seriously drag.  For example, the picture of Kroc and his wife laying in bed strangers to each other or having awkwardly silent dinners together is painful to watch, and underscores Kroc’s isolation and his wish that he had someone who shared his drive and ambition.  Then there is an uncomfortable scene where Kroc is distracted from business by his future ex-wife, who at the time is married to the owner of the restaurant who wants a Minneapolis franchise, and where the two of them have an uncomfortably creepy meet cute doing a piano duet to “Pennies From Heaven.”

As someone who watches a reasonable amount of films [2], this is definitely a well-made film, and the performance by Keaton of the driven and intense and difficult to get along with Ray Kroc is an excellent one.  Indeed, the acting in general is excellent here.  Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch do a good job and have good chemistry as the McDonalds themselves.  Linda Cardellini and Keaton have good chemistry as they setup her place as Mrs. Kroc #2.  Laura Dern plays Mrs. Kroc #1 in a somewhat icy but also frustrated manner, as she was content to have a respectable home and the praise of the local high society ladies and gentleman while Kroc was not satisfied with that level of mediocrity.  Despite the excellence in the acting department, though, this film seems a bit let down.  Some early scenes drag on way too long, and the film is a bit rushed at the end.  The film definitely strikes a topical tone in showing how ruthless many leaders are and how people engage in the creation of “alternate facts” to support their own favored narratives and deal with unpleasant truths better left unsaid.  This is a worthwhile film, and a film that should have done a lot better, but it is a film where the complexity of its figure and the excellence of the actors is let down by filmmakers unsure of what tone to strike and by a production company that totally dropped the ball on getting the film some award credibility.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Movie Review: The Founder

  1. Pingback: Stories, Not Genres | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: #MeToo | Edge Induced Cohesion

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