The Founder – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: Robert D. Siegel (as Robert Siegel)
Stars: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch
Ever wonder where your Happy Meal came from? This is a film about America and the birth of its biggest fast food chain; McDonald’s. It is the story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) and the McDonald brothers, Richard (Nick Offerman) and Maurice (John Carroll Lynch). The brothers had a drive-in diner in the late forties in San Bernardino where they had taken the principles of Henry Ford’s mass production of motor cars and applied it to their diner. If Ford famously once said that you can have any colour as long as it’s black, then the McDonald brothers in effect said you can have anything you want to eat as long as it’s a hamburger. They choreographed the work of their staff and automated their systems as much as they possibly could so the quality of the hamburger was kept constant and the staff costs were kept to a minimum. The customers purchased their hamburgers, wrapped in paper, at a window and ate it wherever. They also served milk shakes. The hamburger stall had no plates, no knives, no mugs…no washing up. They were making a lot of money selling hamburgers and milk shakes to families. It was all about families.
Ray Kroc was born in 1902 and was a travelling salesman for a multiple headed, automated milk shake maker business. While living comfortably enough with his homely wife Ethel (Laura Dern) in a nondescript suburb of an Illinois town, he was on the lookout for something that would be financially big. When he witnessed the slick operation created by the McDonald brothers he foresaw, that through franchising, their successful formula could be applied across the States. The film is about him entering into a partnership with the McDonald brothers and Kroc’s determination to expand the franchise. In his persistence to get what he wants there is no right and wrong. It is a chilling demonstration of single mindedness. If Kroc wanted something he permitted nothing to stand in his way. It was a morality free zone in his pursuit of the “family” idyll that became McDonald’s worldwide.
Keaton is completely convincing as Kroc as are Offerman and Lynch as the two brothers. It is fascinating to watch this movie and worth pondering on Kroc’s persistence. It is not an enchanting vision but it demonstrates that dominant businesses are often created by individuals with a determination which overpowers everything else in their lives. Well worth seeing.