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Review: The Founder

After a decade of mediocrity, Michael Keaton’s career has come back to life over the past few years. The former Batman star has given several fantastic performances, including roles in two straight Best Picture winners with Birdman and Spotlight. 

Trying to keep his winning-streak alive, Keaton stars in The Founder. The film follows Ray Kroc, a persistent salesman looking to stay afloat when he discovers McDonalds, a fast-food service unlike any of its kind. The film follows Kroc’s involvement in the McDonalds brand, as well as his ruthless approach to business.

On paper, The Founder seems to be just another formulaic biopic about an impressive success story. Thanks to a fearless leading performance and a darker take on the American Dream, The Founder is one of 2016’s most entertaining flicks.

Stealing the show is Keaton, who gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Kroc. Every scene he brings a raw energy, capturing Kroc’s persistence and eager salesman-like quality. The performance is one that evolves, as Keaton begins exploring the character’s more sinister side as the film goes along. Even though the character isn’t very likable, he is a fascinating character to watch onscreen, and even has a few funny moments along the way.

Surrounding Keaton is a bevy of talented supporting players. Nick Offerman has mostly been relegated to comedic roles, but does a fine job as one of the McDonald brothers. His deadpan delivery is always a joy to watch. John Caroll Lynch, Laura Dern, and B.J. Novak are all good as well, giving this cast even more credibility.

Part of what makes this film so engaging is how interesting its story is. Credit is due to scribe Robert Siegel, who details the events as well as staying true to the facts. Siegel explores the minute details of the story, and does a nice job of building the story as the film goes along.

Director John Lee Hancock is known for directing a lot of biopics (previously directed The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks), but this may be his best yet. Hancock does a good job of not hitting his audience over the head with the cliches that often times plague the genre. The film actually subverts the typical format of the biopic, turning the protagonist we are rooting through the first act into the bad guy.

Many have gripped that The Founder could have been a lot more scathing inditement of Kroc and his practices. Personally, I liked that the film was a bit more restrained, with its more subtle approach being all the more effective in the end. The conclusion does a good job of relaying the impact that Kroc’s actions had on those around him.

The Founder can’t quite reach greatness, as he gets caught in some of the formulaic aspects of biopics. Hancock does mostly a good job here, but his use of style feels very formulaic. Everything from the drowning score to the slick approach feels like something we’ve seen so many times before, and lessens the impact this story has.

The Founder is a satisfying biopic that is bolstered by another fantastic performance from star Michael Keaton.

Grade: B+ 

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