The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.
1080p, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio
2016, Rated PG-13, 1 hour, 55 minutes
Starring: Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, Patrick Wilson
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
I remember as a child one of the first times I went to McDonald’s and saw a Ray Kroc plaque on the wall, I asked my mom why the man wasn’t named McDonald’s if he was the one who started the restaurants. It is that question; the very story of how that happened that is told in the superb movie, The Founder. Ray Kroc, in fact, wasn’t the man who started McDonald’s, the original restaurant, however, he is certainly the one who made it more than a small yet innovative hamburger stand in California. Through determination, persistence, and yes, some devious business strategy, Kroc eventually wrestled the corporation away from the original McDonald’s brothers and turned it into a multi-million (now billion) dollar company.
There is nothing gimmicky or out of the box about the way The Founder tells the story. Yes, there is some voice-over narration from Michael Keaton (who is absolutely brilliant in the role of Kroc), but aside from that, it is just an extremely well-told tale. We begin with Kroc as a travelling salesman pitching multi-mixer machines to various drive-ins and other restaurants, albeit unsuccessfully. Seemingly by fate, he gets an unprecedentedly large order from a place in California called McDonald’s Hamburgers. When he calls them up to confirm that the order was a mistake, he learns that it is, in fact, real, and they need even more than their original order. Flabbergasted as to how this was possible, Kroc gets in his car and makes the long drive out to Southern California. Once there he sees the magic of “fast food” first hand and, for lack of a better term, falls in love with the concept. He quickly tries to convince the McDonald’s brothers that they are sitting on a gold mine, and that they need to develop their genius system into a franchise. At first they are reluctant, but soon they agree and the journey begins.
As things progress and Kroc takes more and more of an active role as the leader and face of the company, the brothers begin to sense that things are moving too fast and away from their desired way of doing things. Kroc pushes on, and in a critical juncture, meets Harry Sonneborn, who would change the course of how McDonald’s would make so much money. Rather than rent land and the building in which the food is made, he showed Kroc how the real money was in owning that land and leasing it to his franchisees. From that point on, Kroc knew the victory was his, whether or not the brothers wanted to follow him.
I found that the balance of dramatization and historical fact was spot on. The story needed to be told as close to the facts as possible, yet the areas open for interpretation, such as the strain in the relationship between Kroc and his wife, were done supremely well. Most of that can be attributed to both a brilliant screenplay and incredible acting. Keaton steals the show as Kroc, but all of the major players were fantastic. Nick Offerman and John Caroll Lynch as the McDonald’s brothers were outstanding – portraying each as very different types of people who still care deeply for each other and their legacy. B.J. Novak, though usually a comedic actor, played a very stern and rigid Sonneborn. And Laura Dern was terrific as Ethel Kroc.
Also of note, the cars, buildings, outfits, office equipment and the like are extremely detailed and lend so much to the feel of the film. Obviously, the story takes place mostly in the 1950s, and all of those things must be done accurately. One of the best scenes to demonstrate this was Kroc’s dinner with the Minneapolis businessman and restaurateur Rollie Smith. The steakhouse was classic 50’s right down to the live piano player and high-backed red leather booths.
Anyone who lives in even a semi-developed country knows where this part of the story ends. What most of those people don’t know is how it gets there. The Founder breathes life and interest into that story, and though it has an entire year of films to compete with for Academy Award nominations next year, I fully expect that it receives a full slew of them.
The film transfer here is excellent. Seeing the actual Golden Arches for the first time really pushes home the enormity of that turning point in American pop culture. Kroc’s long drive across the country to California had some wonderful shots of the countryside and desert as he traveled further west. All of this in the 2.40:1 widescreen format worked very well. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack was nothing tremendous, but still contributed to overall historical feel of the film.
- Behind the Scenes Gallery
- Press Conference with Filmmakers and Cast –Lionsgate