Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: Robert D. Siegel
Stars: Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, Michael Keaton
THE FOUNDER an American biographical drama that tells the story of of Ray Kroc, the self-claimed founder of McDonald’s. Whether he is the true founder or not, it is up to the audience to decide, but the film written by Robert Siegel and directed by John Lee Hanccock tries to reveal the real story, warts and all.
Just as THE FOUNDER could serve as an educational film on business success strategies, it could also be a classroom model for ethical practices.
The film follows the trail of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman for milkshake mixers to restaurants – indeed a hard sell. After receiving word that a small diner is ordering an unusually large number of milkshake makers from his company, Ray decides to go visit the enterprise in question. What he finds is a highly popular diner by the name of McDonald’s. Ray is immediately struck by the fast service, the high-quality food, the novelty of disposable packaging (versus cutlery) and the family-focused customers who regularly consume the food.
Ray meets with the two brothers who own and operate the diner. Maurice “Mac” McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) is elder and more simple-minded but extremely hard-working. Richard “Dick” McDonald (Nick Offerman) is younger and known for being an ideas man. Ray is given a tour of the kitchens and immediately is struck by the strong work ethic displayed by From them, Kroc acquires the fast food chain, growing it to a full state business to much more. His marriage to Ethel Fleming (Laura Dern) eventually lands in divorce with him marrying one of his franchise owners.
The film takes its time to get the audience on the side of Ray Kroc. Ray is depicted as a hard-working salesman with initially good honest practices with solid family values like caring for his loving wife. As greed gains control over Ray with the McDonalds empire expanding, Ray resorts to unethical tactics to take control over the two brothers. His marriage ends as well though the details are not shown on screen. He learns more about the dirt in the business and in his own words, he would drown a competitor by sticking a hose up his mouth. So, director Hancock slowly shifts sides as Ray’s good side eventually erodes when he finally cheats the brothers out of their agreed 1% stake in the business.
Michael delivers another outstanding performance as Ray Kroc, a man that the audience can both admire and despise. Patrick Wilson is largely wasted in a small role as the husband of the girl Ray stole to be his second wife. Offerman and Lynch play the brothers perfectly.
If Ray was depicted totally as a scheming unethical cheat, the film would turn away both its audience and McDonald’s customers. McDonald’s has become an American icon and Hancock is smart enough to treat the material as well as the character of Ray Kroc with respect. Besides Kroc has also demonstrated that the American dream can be achieved from pure persistence.
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