Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak, and Laura Dern
I know, at the outset, The Founder doesn’t look like the kind of movie I’d typically go out to see. No superheroes, no space battles…none of that stuff. However, I do like fast food, and it’s far beyond just going out to sample the latest promotional burger. I’ve spent lots of time reading up on the history of these chains that dot our landscape, and I’m fascinated with how they came to be. So when I first heard about The Founder, a biopic on Ray Kroc, that wound up on my “must-see” list.
Ray Kroc has been a salesman for most of his life. He does OK at it. He can afford a nice house and provides a decent living for his wife, but Kroc wants more. When we first meet him, he’s working in restaurant supplies, selling a special milkshake mixer that can make five milkshakes at once. When he gets an order from a restaurant for six of these mixers, his curiosity is piqued. What kind of restaurant needs to be able to make 30 milkshakes at once? He soon discovers a hamburger stand called McDonald’s. The owners and founders — Dick and Mac McDonald — have developed revolutionary new food preparation techniques that they call “Speedy Service,” getting you your food in 30 seconds. Kroc is fascinated with this, and goes into business with the McDonald brothers. Now selling McDonald’s franchises, Kroc begins his journey to turn McDonald’s into the fast food empire it is today. But before long, Kroc is battling the McDonalds for control of the company. Who will come out on top? And at what price will Kroc pay for success?
What I Liked
Michael Keaton is just spellbinding as Ray Kroc. He manages to walk the fine line between charming and sleazy, when Kroc’s on the road pitching his wares. And its fun watching him chase the money and adjust his sales techniques to get that mythological more. Equally good is Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald, the more vocal of the McDonald brothers in his opposition to Kroc’s changes. There’s a fantastic eye to the period, as they perfectly the capture the late 1950s when this all takes place. It also plays with convention quite a bit. When the McDonald brother share their tale with Kroc as to how they came up with their concept, the film briefly turns into a documentary, as we get all the documentary tropes of still photos with narration and talking heads.
What I Didn’t Like
Would have been nice to delve into Kroc’s personal life a little more. When he does eventually leave his wife for someone who shares his desire for more, it seems more like a requirement of this genre, rather than getting fully explored.
A fascinating film about the rise of one of the most prominent industries today, and the people who made it happen. I really enjoyed it.