We recently watched The Founder, a film that passed us by at the cinema but one that was definitely on our to watch list.
The film from director John Lee Hancock (who also brought us Saving Mr Banks) and from the writer of The Wrestler, Robert Siegel had us expecting a great film on this incredible true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) met 2 proud, hard working restaurant owners Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman)
You may not know these 2 owners by their first names but with a surname of McDonald’s, we can pretty much guess you have heard of their restaurant and maybe even frequented one, as this film follows Ray’s desire to franchise their brilliant, ahead of its time business model and have them become the number 1 stop for burger eaters in the USA
We start the film seeing Ray struggling as a travelling salesman, heading to various burger restaurants trying to sell a multi shake maker but without much success. It seems these restaurants are only interested in making one drink at a time, we also see his frustration as he waits up to 30 minutes to receive his food order when having lunch at these stops, which also normally ends up being wrong.
On one of his waits, he is informed that the 2 brothers want to buy 6 of his multi shake makers, Ray thinks this is an error but on ringing to clarify, Dick tells him it is, he thinks they need 8!!
Ray heads off to see this restaurant and is stunned by what he sees, which of course is common place now. Mac and Dick have streamlined the menu, selling just burgers, fries and drinks, nothing else, stopping those wrong orders. They have done away with cutlery and plates and organised their restaurant floor in a way to maximise efficiency to get the food to a customer in record time.
Ray immediately strikes a deal to make a McDonalds in his home town and wants to franchise the McDonalds brand, the brothers agree, but subject to a tight contract that refuses to let Ray change any of the store design & menu, but also keep him committed to the brother’s strong ethics of hard proud workers.
Ray does well with support from his wife Ethel (Laura Dern) but he takes off on his own, arranging loans from banks, putting his home as collateral behind her back. He then approaches some of their wealthy friends to run restaurants to build his franchise, but this turns to disaster, as they are at the stage where they just want to invest, so don’t have the passion to make this a success.
Ray soon learns the way forward is to look forward to those with his same hard working ethic and looks to war veterans or travelling salesman to invest as well as looking to promote from within, including Fred (Justin Randell Brooke), from his own store.
Ray soon begins to clash with the brothers over the restaurant layout and even his share of the profits, as he finds despite taking McDonald’s all over American and making them a massive success.
He soon finds a way around this with help from financial consultant Harry (B J Novak) by selling them the real estate the restaurants are built on, which gives him extra leverage over the franchise.
On his way to selling even more franchises, he meets Rollie Smith (Patrick Wilson) an upscale restaurant owner, who is also so impressed with the model that to too wants to run his own store, Ray though becomes more interested in his wife, Joan (Linda Cardellini)
Joan comes up with an idea to create more space in the restaurants by making powdered milk shakes, thus reducing freezer space for the ice cream used currently, this starts an even bigger fallout with the brothers, which will spiral into Ray buying them out of their own restaurant business and taking claim as the founder of McDonalds.
This really was an excellent movie, you do feel for the 2 brothers, who are in a way exploited for not being bigger thinkers, yet totally understand the vision that Ray went for. The film really shows Ray’s desire to make what was the brothers dream of McDonald’s in every American town a reality and the ruthlessness needed to make it happen.
The film really shows Ray’s desire to make what was the brother’s dream of McDonald’s in every American town a reality and the ruthlessness needed to make it happen.
Yes, the film glosses over the personal life of Ray, wife Ethel doesn’t really do anything, other than get divorced as Ray remarries with Joan, yet the film never really shows the fallout from this. All we see of the divorce is Ray making sure Ethel does not get any of the McDonalds profits.
How this film did not pick up any Oscar nominations, especially for Keaton who is quite frankly outstanding in the title role, this is a must see as we see how such a simple concept from 2 brothers established the way we have fast food today.
Just one final word of warning, if a fan of TV Parks and Recreation, it will take you time to accustom to seeing the Ron Swanson character without the trademark mustache as Offerman loses it to play Dick McDonald =)
Overall this is a must see for us
Watch the trailer here:
Buy the film from Amazon here:
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