The Founder – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, Laura Dern
In cinemas February 17th
I have to admit that I’ve never been a big fan of McDonalds. I’m more of a KFC kinda girl. I’ve never really enjoyed their food and any time I have consumed it I’ve been hungry again an hour later. Don’t get me wrong, as a child there was always something exciting about heading to one of their big shiny outlets to get served food that appeared as soon as you ordered it. But that same food never really floated my boat. My entire opinion of the chain was based on their culinary delights (or lack of same) but thanks to this film I now have new insight into their origins and I have to say my opinion hasn’t improved.
Lest you hadn’t gathered the founder in question is Ray Kroc (Keaton) who is the man who brought McDonalds to the world. To be fair though “founder” is a self-appointed title and the restaurants were actually started by brothers Maurice “Mac” and Richard “Dick” McDonald (played by Lynch and Offerman respectively) who wanted to establish a family friendly, reasonably priced restaurant with consistent quality of food and fast service.
When travelling salesman Ray stumbles upon their operation he quickly realises they are on to something and negotiates with them to franchise the idea throughout the country. After a few false starts the idea eventually takes off but Ray is still struggling financially due to only receiving a limited share of profits. When the brothers refuse to renegotiate his deal Ray starts thinking laterally…
I wasn’t aware of this story and therefore found it an intriguing insight into the fast food giants. When you first see the McDonald brothers at work you will be struck by how their burgers looks, Kroc however was more interested in the profit margins. Yet he is a deeply complex individual who also did a great deal of charitable work once he had “made it”. However this part of his character isn’t really explored here and instead we are given the “bare bones” of what makes him tick. Keaton is mesmerising as Kroc but you do find yourself wondering what is motivating him at times as we never really learn much about his inner workings.
That aside this manages to remain unsentimental about what is a well-loved brand. The focus here is on the origins and how Kroc managed to become one of the most influential businessmen in the world. In that respect it does its job well and it is a fascinating origin story. It wonderfully recreates the era without filtering it with nostalgia and the script is meaty enough that actors manage to create drama out of even simple phone calls, making for a very engaging watch.
Extremely entertaining and watchable, the biggest flaw in this film is the lack of insight into Kroc’s motivation and even archive footage of him being interviewed at the end doesn’t appease that niggle which will stay with you. However this is solidly crafted with some great performances and offers a fascinating glimpse into a story that most people have forgotten by now, which goes to show just how history has been rewritten. It may also put you off McDonalds when you realise how badly the brothers were treated by Kroc. But if you’re hungry after watching it don’t panic. There are plenty of other fast food outlets!