The Founder

Ever wondered how the global burger restaurant, McDonald’s, started out?  Well, wonder no longer.  John Lee Hancock works his magic similarly to his directing of both Saving Mr Banks and The Blind Side, with a dramatisation of real life events.  This is a take on the American Dream film that we have seen many times before, this time focusing on the founding fathers of the most famous burger joint in the world.

With some fairly big names, and a fantastic script, this film is captivating from beginning to end. Michael Keaton, brilliantly, takes the lead as Ray Kroc, who is a traveling salesman.  With a multi-mixing milkshake maker under his arm, we see his daily struggle to shift a product that he appears to have a heavy personal investment in.  We rarely meet his wife, Ethel, played by Laura Dern, who seems quietly frustrated with Ray’s constant traveling, and his attempts to find the next big thing.  For the most part she keeps these problems to herself with only the occasional, but inevitable frustration surfacing. With the constant pressure on both business and home life, Ray’s resentment rises as. in his eyes, his wife appears to be less than supportive of his dreams.

When we re introduced to the McDonald brothers, Dick, played by Nick Offerman and Mac, played by John Carroll Lynch, we begin to see the influence of franchising that Ray Kroc brought to the established but single McDonald’s restaurant. They had been down that route in the past with little success. The issue was the having the right person in charge of the franchise operation to ensure the exacting standards of Dick and Mac were met. Convincing the brothers of his plans to replicate the model of their futuristic fast food kitchen model, in San Bernardino, California, Ray looks to turn the business into a national chain.

This is where the story really starts to build, with the growth of the chain, the disagreements, the ruthless business decisions, and the conflict of interest between a businessman and the creators. The introduction of a different love interest for our main character, falling for the wife of one of his own franchisees, played by Linda Cardellini, we learn more of Ray’s punishing divorce from Ethel.

It is here that the character of Ray changes. At the start of the film we are presented with a man who is trying his best in the face of an unappreciative business community. We are rooting for him. His enthusiasm is what makes him appealing to the audience. As he starts to be become more involved with the franchise operation he changes. He sees what he wants and he moves to take it in a ruthless fashion whether it is a woman or a business. Even then he doesn’t really become the bad guy. In a way he is a realist and isn’t afraid to take the tough decisions.

The timing of the release of this movie reflects on the situation the American audience are faced with, finding themselves with a ruthless, persistent businessman, as their current commander-in-chief.  The film even touches on alternative facts as Ray sets about changing the history of the company by referring to himself as The Founder and altering the timeline of the company to make his first franchised restaurant the first of the empire. Then there is the ongoing debate regarding the nutritional value associated with fast food industry. The irony of “Big Mac” McDonald having a health scare with diabetes during the film is not lost on the audience.

Interesting, engaging, informative and thoroughly entertaining.

Stephen O'Connor

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