When you have a film looking at the origins of McDonald’s, you would think that the company would like it to be inspirational and positive. The tale of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), The Founder is one of selfishness and pure ruthlessness that makes you side with his victims.
The story of Ray Kroc is the tale of a salesman who recognised something special in the fast food restaurant run by the McDonald Brothers. Recognising the potential of franchising what have created he wouldn’t let anything stand in his way, including the brothers themselves.
Michael Keaton is one of those actors who can take a role and infuse charisma into it, even if the character is an unlikable. You tend to watch The Founder looking for him to be redeemed, because he does look to be doing things with the best of intentions, but the salesman in Ray Kroc just can’t ignore the power of profit.
Looking at the McDonalds Brothers themselves Nick Offerman as Dick, and John Carroll Lynch as Mac play their parts well. Stubborn and protective of their restaurant, their passion for what they have created is easy to see. Both Offerman and Lynch give the characters heart, and make them easy to like. You almost pity them as you see Kroc slowly prise their business away from them. The fact that this is based on a true story makes it just as sad.
I’m sure in some ways we should celebrate Ray Kroc for making such a huge success, he formed McDonald’s into what it is today. For those who aren’t blinded by the money though, in both the audience and the film itself, Kroc’s tactics are cold and heartless and leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
Even with the fact that this isn’t exactly heart-warming story, that doesn’t make it a bad one. Putting actors like Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, and Patrick Wilson (among others) onto the screen together and as long as the story holds up you are going to get something special. That is exactly what The Founder is, and while it is more of a cynical story than feel good, it is still interesting to see just how McDonald’s was founded and who the true founders were.
It is interesting that this film was made, especially when it does give a negative view of Kroc. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that the McDonalds brothers were the true creators of the restaurant and the processes that made it a success. It shows capitalism in its ugly form, taking away the dreams of people, just to make others rich.
In the end, The Founder is easy to celebrate because of the powerhouse acting of Michael Keaton, as well as a lot of his co-stars. Packed with star names, some I’ve already mentioned, it is easy to get lost in the world of Kroc and his vision for McDonald’s. In the end though, the people watching will always be the real McDonald’s, sat in their office realising that their business was stolen from underneath them, from a man who promised them the world.
The Founder is a good film and is well worth watching, just don’t expect any heart-warming story of how McDonald’s became the behemoth it is today. If anything it is more eye-opening in its warts and all take on how one man-made a success on the backs of two brothers who had their dreams stolen by capitalism.
The Founder is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.