Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: Robert D. Siegel
Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, B.J. Novak, Laura Dern, Justin Randell Brooke, Kate Kneeland and Patrick Wilson
Synopsis: The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant business in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence and ruthlessness.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
We all know it, you’ve all eaten there, and its easily recognizable anywhere we go: McDonalds. Now the question is, do you know what the story behind the mega food chain is? Do you care? That’s what The Founder wants you to know and feel while watching. It’s a interesting, frustrating and engaging story that I’m surprised I’ve never heard before, and maybe you haven’t either.
The Founder tells the true story of Ray Kroc, a down on this luck traveling salesman, who at the beginning of the film is selling milkshake machines. When he hears about a surprisingly large order, he decides to check it out and travels to San Bernardino, California and finds McDonalds. Surprised by the quickness of getting orders out, he meets the owners in brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) McDonald and convinces them they should franchise the restaurant. Mac and Dick reluctantly agree and give Ray the run down and have him go do just that. What follows is the story of how a small family business became a world phenomenon, the lives it affected.
The film is built around Michael Keaton, who hits it out of the park as Ray Kroc. Seeing him go from barely selling machines to owning a business is a performance that needs to be seen. Going from a somewhat modest seller to becoming a bit snarky back-stabbing business man is something where it’s hard to imagine this was the same person. You can make the argument that maybe Ray is in the right, and maybe he was to some extent, but the way he treats the McDonald’s and takes the credit does make him an easy villain, for the lack of a better word. Also, seeing a man being slowly corrupted by the idea that he sees could be a massive success is worth the price of the ticket alone, and makes a great character study.
When it comes to the McDonald’s, John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman are equally fantastic in their own right. Their portray as the brothers does make Ray’s betrayal harder because the two really are extremely likable, and you know from the very beginning they aren’t in it for the money, but for the pure joy of being the best burger and “fast-food” place around.
The rest of the cast does great in their small roles, although some are overshadowed by Keaton. Laura Dern plays Ray’s first wife Ethel Kroc, who is a stay-at-home wife and handles a lot of the drama-side of the things, Linda Cardellini and Patrick Wilson pop in as Joan and Rollie Smith, who invests in Ray and leads to subplot that is a bit ham-fisted for me personally, but Cardellini gets the bigger role there. B.J. Novak plays Ray’s lawyer, Harry J. Sonneborn, near the end of the film, and Kate Kneeland plays June Martino who is Ray’s secretary.
All in all, The Founder will definitely strike a cord with people. Whether you see Ray as taking an opportunity and running with it, or seeing him as the villain for stealing a great idea from people who worked hard to get it. The film really lets you decide for yourself, and makes that debate even harder with the standout performances by John Carroll Lynch, Nick Offerman, and more importantly, Michael Keaton.
4 out of 5