Studio:The Weinstein Company
Director:John Lee Hancock
MPAA Rating:PG-13 (for brief strong language)
Starring:Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak, Laura Dern
The Founder is the film America needs to see right now. Featuring an Oscar worthy performance from Michael Keaton as the titular Ray Kroc the film tells a cautionary tale of greed and the pursuit of power in a capitalistic society where morality seems to have been thrown out with the kitchen trash.
The movie shows how a simple traveling salesman, always looking for the product that will make him rich, hijacked the innovative and wholesome family owned McDonald’s restaurant and manipulated and lied his way into turning a simple idea into an international behemoth all while driving out the brothers who created McDonald’s to begin with, even effectively writing them out of the historical narrative of the franchise’s creation story.
Nick Offerman and John Caroll Lynch do a wonderful job of playing the McDonald brothers Dick and Mac. They are intelligent entrepreneurs who, like Ray Kroc, were trying to find their golden nugget. As business owners they had already seen their share of start up failures but they continued to seek out their big hit. Eventually they figured out how to innovate and revolutionize the car-hop restaurant and they created the modern fast food restaurant with the very first McDonald’s restaurant. Their innovations allowed for rapid order fulfillment, quality food service and reliably consistent food preparation.
So what makes the McDonald’s brothers different from Ray Kroc? Both were in pursuit of their riches in the market, right? The film does a wonderful job of demonstrating the differences between the McDonalds who were content with staying a small operation that provided them and the people they hired with good paying jobs and delivered to the population at large a satisfying and quickly delivered meal. They had flirted with franchising their operation but had already pulled back from that idea when they realized they couldn’t maintain the quality of the experience across multiple locations on their own. They couldn’t take themselves out of running the day to day of their own restaurant. Their vision of success was limited to their own four walls.
Ray Kroc convinced them that he could build out their business for them. Reluctantly they agreed to give it a try, and just like that they let ‘the wolf into the hen house’ as Kroc proceeded to build on the elements that made their business successful on the micro-scale and built it out into a spiraling macro-scale. As Kroc proceeds forward as the face of McDonald’s he allows the new franchise owners to see him as the originator of their success gradually building the foundation for claiming total ownership of the McDonald’s brand through carefully culturing the narrative of the company’s success and finding every legal loophole available to strangle hold the McDonald brothers into relinquishing their control of the company to him. The ending here is heartbreaking and is a brutally honest depiction of capitalism gone wrong.
In the world we live in today, where a billionaire businessman is sitting in the highest seat of power in the world, The Founder is a must-see cautionary tale of how the little guy can be swindled by those in pursuit of nothing but fame, wealth and power.