|'The moments in the script which allow Keaton to truly bring Kroc's indomitable ruthlessness to life are too few, but when they arrive the actor makes the most of them'.|
In successfully bringing the lives of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs to the big screen in The Social Network and, er, Steve Jobs respectively, both David Fincher and Danny Boyle did what many considered nigh on impossible: they made the stories behind Facebook and Apple not only interesting, but thrilling. As a film focused on how another of the most recognisable corporate brands of the last hundred years took the first steps to becoming the burger-peddling behemoth it is today, comparisons between Fincher and Boyle's films and John Lee Hancock's McDonald's origin story The Founder are both entirely appropriate and utterly inevitable.
It's a shame then that Hancock not only fails to achieve the same level of tension and engagement throughout the majority of his film, but seems relatively unaware of The Founder's position amongst the recent spate of big business biopics. The Social Network and Steve Jobs worked because the directors recognised that attempting to put the whole of these stories on screen simply wasn't viable. Hancock in fact has form for taking just this approach to the relationship between Walt Disney and P. L. Travers in the excellent Saving Mr. Banks.
The bulk of The Founder takes place over seven years during the 1950s and 1960s, but the length of time covered isn't the issue. Steve Jobs covered more than twice that period, but did so in a way which captured the essence of its subject through focusing on a handful of key moments in intensive detail. Hancock too achieved the same level of precision in his handling of Disney and Travers, but falls dispiritingly short of that high mark here. The director's routine and linear execution is his critical failing: a number of characters and elements are left regrettably underdeveloped - not least Ray Kroc's (Michael Keaton) relationship with his wife Ethel (Laura Dern), a subplot all but forgotten about come the halfway point and which gives Dern criminally little to do.
Whilst Keaton never delivers the post-Birdman and Spotlight powerhouse turn many will have expected, he portrays Kroc compellingly, believably and - perhaps most importantly - without the need to ever turn the entrepreneur into a pantomime villain. The moments in the script which allow Keaton to truly bring Kroc's indomitable ruthlessness to life are too few, but when they arrive the actor makes the most of them. Of equal importance here are John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman as McDonald brothers Mac and Dick respectively, deftly providing the understated old-world honesty as a counterpoint to Kroc's modern and unashamedly devious approach to both business and life in general.