Director: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Caroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, B.J. Novak, Laura Dern
McDonald’s can be found in 118 countries across the globe, with 36,615 restaurants currently in operation. But did you ever wonder just how the McDonald’s franchise came to be? Or who came up with golden arches that are instantly recognisable to almost everyone? The trailer for ‘The Founder’ promised to fill us in on these details by telling the story of Ray Kroc and how he built up the McDonald’s empire. The trailer quickly gave off the impression that this was a story worth telling. And it was.
‘The Founder’ is the, sadly, true story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) and how he turned two brother’s humble but revolutionary fast food restaurant into a multi-billion dollar fast food company and squeezed them out of their family business completely. Dick (Nick Offerman, sans facial hair) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) McDonald always dreamed of running a successful business together, and after multiple attempts and some crushing failures, they finally found success with their little walk-up burger joint, that Kroc instantly falls in love with and expresses his desire to franchise it. Dick is very hesitant at the idea because it’s something the brothers had tried before with no success, but Kroc’s persistence proves fruitful when the brothers write a contract to make him ‘Head of Franchising’. Kroc has been a salesman for most of his working life, so he knows how to talk the talk when it comes to getting what he wants. It doesn’t take long before Kroc becomes power-hungry and let’s his greed destroy his relationships with everyone around him as he builds the McDonald’s franchise.
Michael Keaton is on form yet again with this performance. At first Kroc comes across like an excitable, energetic little puppy every time he hears the name McDonald’s but as the story unfolds and his true intentions come to light, he becomes more like a sharp-witted, blood thirsty wolf that’s ready to strike at any moment. You can see Kroc’s character progression quite clearly in the way Keaton presents himself, his posture and mannerisms begin to change, his stance and his facial expressions become sterner and the tone of his voice loses its persuasive tone and becomes much more aggressive and demanding.
Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch were a great pairing as the McDonald brothers, who you really can’t help but feel sorry for. During some points of the film you find yourself forgetting that it’s all based on true events because you think surely no one is that much of a dick to do what Kroc does. But sadly, it’s all true. B.J. Novak portrays Harry Sonneborn, who is the man responsible for pitching Kroc a revolutionary financial idea that changed everything for the entire franchise and ultimately lead to the development of Kroc’s power-hungry attitude.
As the story of how the McDonald’s brothers got royally screwed over by Kroc takes place in the 1950’s, we’re treated to some truly authentic looking shots of the American suburbs and diners/restaurants that look like they’d been pulled straight from that time period. This authenticity was one of my favourite parts of the film, and my eyes were constantly roaming the screen during the wide shots. The restaurant signs, menus, buildings, company logos and vehicles were all a treat for the eyes.
When it comes down to it, I think ‘The Founder’ is a satisfactory biopic. The script seemed to let down some of the more pivotal points of the story, but I do commend Hancock for sticking to the story at hand rather than getting distracted by the romantic subplot that could have swallowed up some screen time. Keaton, Offerman and Lynch are the real saving graces of the film, alongside the authentic look and feel of the film. Other than that, it’s not a film I’ll remember much of this time next year but it’s definitely a story I’m glad has been told. You’re going to want to stay seated after the final scene, as just before the credits role there are some photos of the real Ray Kroc and McDonald’s brothers, as well as some astounding facts and figures on just how much Kroc screwed over the brothers.