Whether by accident or design, The Founder seems scarily in tune with the new Donald Trump era. Maybe we’re reading too much into it, but this story of the birth of McDonald’s focuses not on the siblings that invented the concept, but the shark-like salesman who effectively ended up stealing the business from them.
The upside of this approach is that Michael Keaton gets most of the screen time and he certainly is in his element as the lead character, Ray Kroc. This fast-talking, milkshake machine salesman chanced across the groundbreaking fast food restaurant established by Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) in the 1950s, and immediately saw its potential to become a national chain.
Despite the reluctance of Dick, the bothers employ Ray to develop their franchise business and everything goes swimmingly at first. However, when their erstwhile employee becomes frustrated with their conservative approach to business – and the money he is making out of it – he hits upon a new strategy that will eventually see the company become the corporate giant it is today.
The interplay between the charming but unscrupulous Keaton and the dour Offerman provides the film’s best moments, and director John Lee Hancock revels in the kitsch ’50s settings. However, you can’t help but feel that in different hands, The Founder would have played out as a great underdog story rather than a celebration of how anything goes when it comes to getting ahead in business.
In cinemas: November 24, 2016
Starring: Michael Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Laura Dern
Directed by: John Lee Hancock