The Founder – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review
Oh Ray Kroc, you certainly were a ruthless one weren’t you? The Founder tells the tale of Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonalds into the international, multi-billion dollar success that it is today. Ray (Michael Keaton) was a down on his luck travelling salesman until he met two California brothers who had a breakthrough in the fast food hamburger industry. Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) were happy running their single hamburger stand with their “speedy system” of preparing a meal in 30 seconds, but then they ordered some milkshake machines from Ray who fell in love with their system and their restaurant. Ray thought big, he wanted to see McDonalds restaurants from coast to coast, but the brothers were reluctant to get on board. When he endlessly pitched them a franchising idea, eventually they finally relented. The agreement wasn’t great, as the brothers had ultimate say over a lot of the operation, including how much money the restaurant operators could effectively make without diluting the McDonald’s brand. Ambitious, persistent, and definitely ruthless; Ray thought big, bigger than the McDonald brothers ever could and ever would. How he took control, right out from underneath them was both dirty and brilliant, and The Founder shows us how he did it.
The film doesn’t always paint Ray in a good light but there were times I couldn’t help but root for him. I think that Michael Keaton’s portrayal was probably responsible for that. His performance was easily equal to what he delivered in Birdman. I’m not sure if he’d be eligible for a nomination at the upcoming Oscars (I’m not actually sure when the film was officially released or how the nomination process works) but I’d say he deserves one. Offerman and Lynch delivered equally impressive performances, and the whole ensemble cast really worked together well. I was growing as frustrated as Keaton’s Ray was as Offerman’s Dick refused to grow the business. I felt empathy towards Lynch’s Mac who seemed to want to play peacemaker and keep both sides happy. Laura Dern played Kroc’s first wife Ethel, who was ignored by him as he tried to build the business (and as he found a new romance in Linda Cardellini as Joan, the wife of a franchisee). I really expected Ethel to leave Kroc, not the other way around.
Kroc, when he was approaching the top of his game, was unstoppable and really took whatever he wanted. He wanted McDonalds, so he found way to get it. It may have been a fluke, and he may not have come up with it on his own, but when someone told him that the real money was in the real estate, and taught him to purchase the land that the franchises were built on and to lease that out to the franchisees he had the McDonald boys where he wanted them, he was able to control how the restaurants operated on the land which raised more capital, which bought more land, which built more restaurants, all while getting him out of the constraining contract and standards Dick and Mac had imposed.
Legally purchasing the name, the processes, and everything from them was a smart business move, screwing the McDonald family out of future royalties was a dirty move, but he did it. And if you think about it, if Ray Kroc hadn’t done all this, all the planning, conniving, and backstabbing, we wouldn’t have the McDonalds we know today. I would never have had the chance to eat a Big Mac being up here in Canada. Ronald McDonald House and McHappy Day, which annually supports children’s charities, would not exist. There likely wouldn’t be any Burger Kings or similar fast food restaurants that copied the McDonalds idea. While it was Kroc’s wife Joan who was largely responsible for the charity work, you have to admit, whether you like Kroc or not, his McDonalds helped shape a lot of the world we live in.
The movie was very entertaining, and very informative with excellent performances, especially by Michael Keaton. We’ve probably all eaten at McDonalds at some point in our lives, but I know I didn’t know the story behind it all, The Founder was a fascinating biopic that really opened my eyes to that world.
Bottom Line: I’m pretty sure that the “Big Mac” was named that just to rub it in Mac and Dick McDonald’s faces that Ray Kroc owned McDonalds.
Posted on 17-06-02, in 4.5 Star, Movie Reviews and tagged Founder, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, McDonalds, Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, Ray Kroc. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.