The Founder is an interesting watch, but does it live up to the hype?
Ah, the Golden Arches. From birthday parties when I was young to late night drunken escapades last night, they have fed me many a time.
They stand as a beacon of hope in an otherwise sea of disappointing meals, where every burger tastes as good as the last, and it’s somehow acceptable to eat ice-cream and bacon at the same time.
So it seems only fitting that someone rolled up their sleeves and made a film about those two glorious parabolas – or perhaps more fittingly, the people behind them.
Our story starts with Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a milkshake salesperson from Illinois.
With nothing but a driving will and a couple of useless business ideas, he spent his life travelling the U.S., trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to make ends meet.
That is until he stumbled across a little restaurant in San Bernardino, California.
Here, two restaurateurs, Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) were able to create the never before seen establishment, McDonald’s. Their restaurant promised a 30 second turnaround, aided by a ballet-like operating system maximised for efficiency, affectionately known as the speedee system.
Kroc took an interest in their operation, proceeding to become a business partner, and eventually the owner of the McDonald’s we know today.
The original owners however were subject to a less fortunate future, as their family-friendly restaurant suffered a slow and torturous demise, their home-grown business torn from their hands.
The Founder isn’t a mind-blowingly incredible film, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments.
The character progression of Ray Kroc seamlessly turned him from the underdog we were all rooting for, to the villain we all hated, leaving me a little sad inside and very tense on the outside. Director John Lee Hancock spent the first third of the film inspiring us, instilling us with the ideals of ‘The American Dream’, only to cut us down when the true Ray Kroc surfaced.
Hancock perfectly juxtaposes the rising ideals of the McDonald’s restaurant with the demise of Kroc’s personal morality.
While Kroc strives to make the Golden Arches as iconic as the Cross and the Flag, entrenched with values of family and unity to his customers, he destroys the lives of so many around him. In the name of honest and integrity, Kroc steals, cheats, and just becomes a generally bad dude.
Hancock’s critique of Kroc’s methods seems to be a part of a wider criticism of ‘The American Dream’.
We’re all obsessed with the idea of becoming rich and successful, but at what cost?
Ray Kroc happily stated there was no end game; he was never going to stop to get what he wanted, and he was never going to stop wanting. And so many people were broken and hurt by his relentlessness. The phrase “dog eat dog” rings out of Kroc’s mouth like it’s an inevitability, and not an active choice he made time and time again.
We want to believe the best in people, but people aren’t always the best, and that’s why The Founder is so saddening.
On a lighter note, Michael Keaton was amazing! I mean, isn’t he always? The man goes from strength to strength, drawing on some of his zanier characters to highlight Kroc’s fidgety entrepreneurial attitude and annoying persistence. I couldn’t help but notice a little bit of Beetlejuice in the way he walked and talked. Perhaps he saw some similarities between the bio-exorcist and Mr. Macca’s.
Hate it or love it, The Founder is an interesting insight into the world’s most popular restaurant, and definitely worth a watch.