The Founder tells the tale of the expansion of McDonald’s into the worldwide corporation it is today. Although nothing revolutionary, it successfully borrows from movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street to tell a story that is fast-paced and intriguing. The start of the movie feels almost like an advertisement for McDonald’s however, through an honest script and fantastic performances we get to see the enthusiasm, passion and ultimate betrayal that leads to the restaurant business becoming a household name.
The story follows Ray Kroc, a failing milkshake machine salesman as he investigates a store that is wanting to buy 5 of his machines. He’s confused about the request for such a high volume of them that he jumps on the highway and travels to see the reason for the order. When he arrives, he’s met with a small burger stand that can serve food in 30 seconds, not 30 minutes. After meeting the McDonald brothers and learning about their operation, Kroc has nothing else on his mind other than franchising.
What’s interesting about The Founder is that it doesn’t follow the origins of McDonald’s. We don’t see the McDonald brothers coming up with the idea as such, but rather, we follow the trials and tribulations that took place in order for McDonald’s to expand as fast as it did. As stated, the story follows Ray Kroc, not the McDonald brothers, as he is the main powerhouse behind the expansion. This ends in complications and leads the audience to uncover the dark secrets of his success.
Michael Keaton does a fantastic job of showing a worn-down salesman finally finding his purpose in life. He’s full of charm and enthusiasm throughout the film and it’s these traits that lead him to become ruthless in his approach with the owners. Ray’s character doesn’t really change his outlook, he just has to work around strict guidelines imposed by the McDonald brothers. Yet, seeing the fall of this little mom and pop food stand and the rise of a global empire is fascinating; especially when it comes to the business decisions that are required to make the chain so successful.
The film begins with it feeling like a commercial for McDonald’s, but the tone gradually changes and moves to a much more honest look at the shady backhand deals and turbulent home life of Kroc. Despite this, it seems that the composer of the score didn’t get the memo. The score roars over the film making the film feel much more epic than it actually is. It plays to the grandeur of the actions Kroc takes rather than acknowledging how ruthless they are. But this is the story of Kroc, not the McDonald brothers, yet the emotions lie with watching the rug being pulled from under the brother’s feet. In The Wolf of Wall Street, we never actually saw who Jordan Belfort was ripping off. We never made an emotional connection with his victims, therefore we could relish in his achievements. However, in The Founder, it’s difficult to celebrate Kroc’s new found success.
I enjoyed this movie. It was fun, fast-paced and had a story that genuinely intrigued me. Keaton, once again, delivers a fantastic performance of a man snatching his last chance to make it with a fresh and innovative idea; it’s a bit of a shame this movie wasn’t either of these.