Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick
Rating: * * * ½
A peek into the background of a super-achiever is very likely to reveal a misdemeanour, if not a downright crime. The international McDonald’s burger chain is a great success story, at the heart of which is a great betrayal.
John Lee Hancock’s 'The Founder' is a biopic of Ray Kroc, who established the McDonald’s empire, though, ironically, he did not found it. But as the script states “Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful men with talent”. Even Hancock chose to make a film on Kroc, and not on the two brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald (Nick Offerman, John Carrol Lynch), who actually founded the fast food restaurant in a small American town, and created the system that enabled the consumer to be served a fresh burger in just thirty seconds. They had faced failure and struggled to make it this far, but always make sure that their high quality standards are maintained.
Kroc is the none-too-successful salesman of a milkshake mixer when he visits the McDonald brothers’ restaurant after they order eight of this mixers, on a hunch that there is something big waiting to happen for him. The brothers guilelessly show Kroc around and share their operational secrets. They are content with what they have achieved; though they did try franchises, they were not satisfied with the way they were run. They had not bargained for the persistence of Kroc, who bulldozes into letting him take over the franchising. Once the papers are signed, he pays no attention to the brothers’ protests, banging the phone on them each time. Even he has trouble making profits from the fast-growing chain, till he meets the even more Machiavellian financial advisor Harry J. Sonneborn (B.J. Novak), who tells him that the profit is not in the burgers, but in the real estate.
Eventually he helps Kroc to wrest control, not just of the business but even the name McDonald’s and the iconic golden arches design. In the relentless pursuit of profit, Kroc ruthlessly divorces his devoted wife Ethel (Laura Dern), and steals the pretty blonde wife of one of his franchisees, a profit-loving woman (Linda Cardinelli), who is closer to his unscrupulous self.
The filmmaker may paint Kroc as a sleazeball, but it is clear he is on the side of success, not of the earnest brothers, who helplessly allow Kroc to con them. However, once he kicked out the McDonalds, Kroc did work hard to expand the business and maintain the standards the real founders set. He also gave away a large part of his fortune to charity.