It’s a shame that this didn’t get as much recognition as it did. It was my most anticipated movie of 2016 but after having it’s release date shifted so many time, my excitement began to wain. Despite this, Michael Keaton elevated this movie, continuing his post-Birdman resurgence. (original review)
Synopsis: The Founder features the true story of how Ray Kroc, a struggling salesman from Illinois,met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers’ speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. (Elevation Pictures
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, and John Carroll Lynch
Writer: Robert D. Siegel
Director: John Lee Hancock
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 115mins
Ray Kroc (Keaton) is an ambitious milkshake machine salesman, has hit a rut in his life and is looking for his big break in order to give his life meaning. This obviously all changed when he met the McDonald brothers, Dick (Offerman) and Mack (Lynch), and witnessed their operation. He saw this as his big break and his chance to do something with his life. Being the visionary he was, he saw this before anyone else did.
Early on, Kroc professes in a flash forward that they key to his success was persistence over everything else and that was easy to see. He always believed in what he was doing, whether he was successful or not. He was not very successful early on, perhaps lacking the required passion in reciting the same sales speech over and over again and being refused by client after client.
Once he witnessed the McDonald’s operation, he became obsessed and tried to convince the brothers to franchise. They were hesitant in allowing him to do so since they previously tried and failed at maintaining quality control standards and causing great strain on Mac. Kroc’s pride comes out as he refuses to take no for an answer and convinces the brothers to let him franchise but all business decisions had to be run by them first.
As soon as this happens, he sets out and tries to sell people the idea of franchising. The passion and the belief are there as he gives his same speech to prospective clients but he finds more success this time around as he is able to convince people of the opportunity. As the franchisees became successful, so did he but that wasn’t enough for him. Consumed by greed, nothing seemed to be enough for him.
The only thing standing between Kroc and taking McDonald’s to the next level were the brothers. They, but more specifically Dick, refused almost all of Kroc’s proposals. They weren’t real businessmen and were more sentimental about their restaurant. They were weary of the direction in which their idea was going and how fast it was going. Despite what was happening, they wanted to maintain control.
Kroc’s ruthlessness would comes out through his many clashes with the brothers where he would constantly go against their wishes, almost bullying them, and do whatever he wanted. He always seemed to be a nice guy with anyone who wasn’t against him. They were holding him back and so was the bank to whom he owed money after remortgaging his house without telling his wife Ethel (Laura Dern).
Throughout his success, his ego kept building and building. Based on the trailers, he also finds a way to get rid of the brothers, or at least render them irrelevant. He also suddenly wanted a divorce from Ethel. He ultimately wanted McDonald’s all to himself but the timing did not make much sense. They did not really have much of a relationship on screen but she was mostly supporting of him. Kroc’s personal life was probably the weakest part of the film.
The film had a great degree of authenticity in its depiction of the 1950s. From the look, to the set design, the score, and the costumes made it very immersive. The acting was the best part of the film and that began with Keaton. Kroc could have easily been an unlikable character but Keaton gives him likability while showing his humanity. Some may call it arrogance and some ambition but Keaton stole scenes in depicting Kroc’s drive to succeed. Offerman and Lynch were good as well as the McDonald brothers, fighting for what they believed in but ultimately failing. Dern was good in an unnecessary role.
Overall, this was a well written, well directed, and well acted biopic, led by a great performance by Michael Keaton.