The Founder Review

Ray Kroc: You know what? Contracts are like hearts, they are made to be broken.

Beware: Spoilers may follow.

Netflix certainly hides many secrets and among them being this movie I found while browsing it. I didn’t know what to expect from a movie about the founding of McDonalds but when I saw Michael Keaton played the lead it got my attention a bit. And from what I saw it proved to be a relatively enjoyable experience.

The story takes place in the 1950s and involves struggling milkshake salesman Ray Kroc who meets Mac and Dick McDonald running a burger operation in Southern California. Kroc is impressed by the two’s speedy system of cooking food and sees potential in franchising the restaurant. Over the course of the movie Kroc manages to works his way into a position to pull the company from the two brothers and create a multi-million dollar empire in the process.

The director behind this movie also directed Saving Mr. Banks, which is a Disney favorite of mine. Much like that movie, the story isn’t so much the technical set-up of the real-life product (although they do go into it) as much as it is the clash of ideals between two parties. Unlike Saving Mr. Banks however, which is a feel-good story to the end, the story for this movie goes a different route, which turns out to be one of the movie’s strongest aspects. It’s not as much about the stuff the food as much as it is the moralistic depth of business ethics and the cost of achieving the American Dream. And both the writing and directing do well when it comes to crafting the characters down to the letter making you feel for both the McDonalds brothers and Ray Kroc but also showing when they are being uncompromising. Even though Ray Kroc went about taking the McDonalds business through quite the deceitful way, things aren’t all black and white. It poses legitimate questions as to whether Ray was right and what would McDonalds be like if he hadn’t did what he did and if achieving the American Dream means destroying those of others’ American Dream. That’s important not only for a movie to do but also what life is like. A great movie never offers straight answers and sometimes life does the same.

Michael Keaton has always been one of my favorite actors out there and he’s shined in several movies such Batman, Birdman, Beetlejuice, and Spider-Man Homecoming and his performance continued to impress me here. Keaton does well in making Kroc’s character compelling making him a balance of good-naturedness and antagonism that really does well to bring out the moral ambiguity of Kroc’s actions. Then there’s Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonalds brothers Dick and Mack whose performances do well in showcasing the social and kind-hearted part of the business as well as the more serious and dramatic demeanor and the two have a chemistry together that really makes it believable that these two could run a business together. The rest of the supporting cast do well in what’s given to them and play greatly to the story’s strengths.

If there is a real fault to the movie is that while the movie does well to summarize Ray’s takeover and him going from hero to villain there are other side plots like Ray becoming infatuated with Joan Smith and the rift between his wife Ethel feel very underdeveloped and glossed over in comparison to everything else and the movie does highlight them yet there’s not much to care about.

The Founder isn’t a particularly grand or “must see” type of movie and it has a little bit of rough spots in its narrative. But its main plot and the actors’ performances are really amazing in giving interesting and thought-provoking ideas. If you have a couple of spare minutes take a look at it even if you don’t eat at McDonalds. Your time won’t be wasted and it’ll really make you see McDonalds like you’ve never seen it before.