The Founder

 photo founder_ver2_zpsnrgspsta.jpg photo starrating-4stars.jpgMcDonald’s is so ubiquitous that it’s hard to believe that at one time the very concept of fast food was a revolutionary idea. Today the global foodservice retailer employs 1.9 million people. It’s the second world’s largest private employer after Walmart. The humble beginnings of a multi-billion dollar empire would be a compelling saga in any industry, but it’s particularly amazing that it happened from selling something as cheap and simple as hamburgers. The creators of McDonald’s were Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1940 but the originator of the McDonald’s Corporation was Ray Kroc in 1955. The difference between those two entities is the underlying concept for a fascinating story.

The Founder starts out as the glorification of a pioneer and becomes a critique on capitalist greed. For the entire duration, it’s a galvanizing watch. Time and again, history has shown that the most successful people in business aren’t necessarily the ones that invent the item, it is those that know how to take that idea and market it properly to masses. We should all know that Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile but he made it a viable option for the public.  That concept was more recently portrayed in the Danny Boyle directed Steve Jobs (2015) as well as in David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010). Here it is again.

It’s essentially the biography of Ray Kroc, a milkshake mixer salesman from Oak Park, Illinois. One day he gets an order for a large number of mixers from a small burger joint in San Bernardino, California. He makes the trek out there to see what’s going on and finds a popular diner that offers delicious, quickly prepared food wrapped in disposable packaging, served without the need for waiters or carhops. The lines are huge. Intrigued, he talks with hard-working Maurice “Mac” McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and business minded Richard “Dick” McDonald (Nick Offerman). Proud of their prosperous establishment, the brothers give Ray (and us) a detailed explanation of what makes their assembly line operation so unique.

It’s lamentable that these performances kind of got lost in the awards season shuffle because these three are all worthy of consideration. These actors form a triad that is really engaging. Ray wants to franchise the store. Needless to say, the trio begins to work together. Ray makes frequent visits to franchise owners instilling in them the discipline to adhere to the values of what sets McDonald’s apart from the competition. As Ray and the brothers’ relationship develop there are many debates, often by phone, on how the company should be run. The script by Robert D. Siegel (The Wrestler) is extremely entertaining, but it also gives insight into what made McDonald’s different from similar diners in that era. Some of their discussions are amusing, but they can get pretty heated too. I lost track of how many times a conversation ended with one of the participants slamming the receiver down.

The Founder is a very thorough depiction of business. As the chronicle evolves, we get a tale that metamorphosizes from a drama about entrepreneurial spirit into a commentary on the sins of capitalism. What emerges is a riveting portrayal of Ray Kroc. He comes across as a very intelligent guy but he can be a ruthless tycoon as well. The brothers are depicted in a more sympathetic light. They place a premium on high-quality ingredients for example. Yet their “stuck in a rut” way of thinking is part of an outmoded business model that has kept their attempts to franchise from succeeding in a big way. Did Ray Kroc exploit the brothers’ geniality or was he the visionary that saw opportunities that they didn’t? It’s an interesting discussion and one that the screenplay encourages. You will both admire and chastise this man. That duality grounds The Founder. I enjoyed every morsel that it served up.

01-19-17

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15 Responses to “The Founder”

  1. Can’t wait to see this!

  2. Great review! I’m really surprised with the opening date of this one. For some reason, I thought it was going to be a 2016 release and be a contender in the Oscars. So, with a 2017 release, I’m again surprised it wasn’t pushed back to the meaty months of winter.

  3. Just saw this one the other day. Agreed, it’s a fantastic movie, though I wish they’d given a little more story in the final third, once Ray became filthy stinking rich. Nice review.

    • Glad you enjoyed it. I really wish more people had seen this movie. It’s so entertaining. A $7.5m gross to date against a $7M budget isn’t too encouraging for these kinds of films.

      • I agree. John Lee Hancock directed it really well. Earlier in the year, when I heard about it, I was hoping it would be big at the Oscars, so it’s sad to see that it didn’t get a single nomination and isn’t getting any love at the box office whatsoever. Same with Silence. That was a FANTASTIC movie, in my opinion, and it’s being completely overlooked.

  4. I agree man, there should at the very least be a nomination for Keaton here. he was freaking brilliant.

    Surprised by how emotional I actually got over a movie about McDonald’s! This was great.

  5. Having worked at McDonalds during high school, I was excited about this movie. I knew who Ray Croc was, but didn’t know the whole story. Very informative and good. I’ve been to the actual location many times in Southern California. I loved it. 4 stars

    • Yes, it’s located in San Bernandino, CA. The site of the original McDonald’s is now a gift shop and museum. It kind of looks like a restaurant, but I don’t believe it operates as one anymore.

  6. Glad you liked it! Good review!

  7. Unfortunately The Founder was a movie that got lost in the shuffle even though I was really interested in seeing it, particularly for its critique on capitalist greed. I’m happy to hear that the three central performances at the center of the film are all great, since I’m a big fan of each actor. I’ve heard that as the movie goes on you become less and less sympathetic to Kroc, which I find fascinating. Looking forward to seeing this movie when I have the chance.

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