The Founder is a 2016 drama about Ray Kroc who many see as the founder of McDonald’s.
Up until last year I never thought about how they were people before Ray Kroc who actually started the business of McDonald’s.
Ray Kroc, played by Michael Keaton, is a 40 plus down on his luck salesman. He’s determined to make a sale giving passionate pleas filled with generous compliments on the potential clients but unfortunately no one values what he is shilling.
This continues to happen until he hears about this burger spot and he has to check it out.
One thing about Kroc is that he is extremely ambitious and in my opinion, to a fault.
He lies about having business in California and drives from the midwest to San Bernardino to visit McDonald’s who is changing the game on consumption.
Back in the day drive in diners tended to attract “undesirables” and has complications like servers being so swamped they mess up the customers order.
McDonald’s had a “Speedee Service System” which increased efficiency for burger preparation but didn’t sacrifice quality. This was pioneered by Dick McDonald, played by Nick Offerman.
McDonald’s was ran by two brothers, Mac and Dick, who were very good at their job.
What I enjoyed about this film was that it showed who the brothers were as people.
When Kroc would have ideas of cutting costs that would lower the quality of the food like Insta-mix milkshakes the brothers would protest putting their foot down wanting to preserve the brand they created.
Unfortunately for them they went into business with someone who cared more about profits.
Before the 80s and Gordon Gecko extolling the benefits of capitalism with his “greed is good” mantra Ray Kroc dreamed of franchises McDonald’s nationally. This was an idea first attempted by the brothers early on but with the lack of proper supervision the restaurants floundered under the fast pace demands of the business.
With a contract and the blessing of the McDonalds, Kroc became the John the Baptist of the food industry.
Sacrilegious, sure, but with the fervor that Kroc had to become something in this world he put his nose to grindstone and made it happen.
With The Founder a great quality about this film was showing the consequences of the characters actions.
At the beginning of the film we see Kroc has a strained relationship with his wife, played by Laura Dern, this is because of work priorities superseding time he has for his wife and their bond.
While she’s encouraging as he sells various products he accuses her of not being supportive and openly imagines a life where they could work as a team.
Because Kroc is so dedicated to his goal of becoming a success and pushing pass the expectations others had for him he takes more alarming risks, going behind his wife’s back to put up their house as equity to gain a loan for another McDonald’s franchise.
This backfires tremendously as they beginning receiving past due bills from different banks across the state.
Humiliated that his wife now knows about his deceit he goes to bank and tries to gained leniency and that is where he meets someone who changes his life forever.
Harry Sonneborn, played by BJ Novak, explains that Kroc isn’t in the burger business he’s in the real estate business.
Sonneborn proposes that Kroc buys the land the restaurant sits on and offers the franchisee an opportunity to rent from him directly gaining the power from the McDonalds.
Kroc had become frustrated with the McDonalds way of doing business, they were content businessmen who revolutionized food service, but to Kroc their quality first decision making process was laborious and unnecessary.
I believe this film is a great study of capitalism, excess and when is enough, enough.
You have two parties, both Republicans, both passionate about what they do but only one is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.
This is shown when Kroc makes a decision to sell powdered milkshakes placing them in every franchise except the Brothers facility.
Mac is incensed but Kroc instead of cowering is abrasive and explains how he is breaking their agreement, separating himself from them after incorporating on his own, Franchise Reality Company.
At the end of the film he divorces his wife, openly pursues a married woman, played by Linda Cardellini, and systematic destroyed the brothers lifework, buying them out for nearly $3 million but retaining the naming rights to their stores.
If that wasn’t bad enough the true “first”, now named Big M, store by placing direct competition in front of them.
The film shows why capitalism doesn’t work fairly. It reminded me why I am closer to a democratic socialist and can’t stomach the idea of systematically destroying your opponent just to gain more for yourself.
My only gripe with this film was the framing of the protagonist.
I admit this film isn’t a Wolf of Wall Street style romp that shows his life as a conquering hero instead there leave it up to the audience to decide if what Ray Kroc did was worth it.
I feel it could give others the wrong idea of feeling they could gain the wealth and access shown at the end ignoring the lives Kroc destroyed to get there.