Synopsis: The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world.
Release Date: January 20, 2017 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Biography, Drama
What if I told you that the man who truly “founded” McDonald’s was actually named Ray Kroc? But when I say founded, I mean that he created the business side of McDonald’s and had no hand in making the actual restaurant what it is.
Few know the actual story behind McDonald’s and that’s for good reason. It also makes The Founder a fitting biopic, both in the way it chronicles Ray Kroc’s (Michael Keaton) slow takeover of the brand, and how two brothers named Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) watched their wholesome family restaurant concept morph into a multi-national monster.
There are few bells and whistles in The Founder; it’s a well-made biopic that has a solid script and strong performances. For those who might not be familiar with the story of Ray Kroc and McDonald’s, the film will be plenty compelling with its fair share of twists and turns. Those who do know the story will also get a little something out of the film, as it tends to play key moments with a wink and a nod like when Ray meets Joan Smith (Linda Cardellini). The film smartly tries not to give any key moments any more attention than any other, because for Ray it isn’t clear that these moments are as momentum shifting as they eventually become. When he meets eventual McDonald’s CEO Fred Turner flipping burgers at his first McDonald’s franchise, there’s no pomp and circumstance.
But what the film is really about is Ray Kroc, a salesman who never stopped swindling. Whether it was slowly pulling the McDonald’s name out from under the two brothers that conceived the food, the service, and the design or constantly convincing his wife Ethel (Laura Dern) that they were a team, Kroc is always trying to succeed at any cost. And ultimately that’s what makes The Founder worth watching – its ability to have you rooting for Keaton’s Kroc at the beginning, and have you detesting him by the end. The film charts a clear path towards the man’s success, and it makes sure to hit every necessary beat along the way.
At the same time, the film is a bit longer than it needed to be, spending a little too much time on details that are not essential to the story. The film also feels a little abrupt, choosing to cut off Ray’s story with so many other interesting developments left unseen. Yes, the film is about his “founding” of McDonald’s but it arguably doesn’t spend enough time highlighting the dichotomy of a man who wants to do good, but knows that success comes at a cost.
In the end, though, The Founder is entertaining enough to be worth a watch, if only to experience a unique slice of history. Michael Keaton is fantastic as Ray Kroc, and does well to show both the broken husband and the cruel businessman. Truly, everything about the film, outside of its length, is solid, but nothing about it feels particularly elevated. If you’ve ever eaten at a McDonald’s, you owe it to yourself to know this story, but whether or not the film will bowl you over can vary.
Any positive qualities that The Founder has are likely due to Michael Keaton, who brings his all to the character of Ray Kroc. The rest of the cast members, from Dern to Offerman to Lynch, are all solid in their respective roles, but it really is Keaton who carries the film through. It may be a byproduct of Keaton’s career or personality off-screen, but it’s difficult not to see where Kroc is coming from, which is true of the real man as well. For as much as Kroc was vicious in negotiations and business decisions, he did have somewhat of a good heart, and it’s a credit to Keaton that the delicate balancing act shines through. To truly sell the story of The Founder, the film needed the right Ray Kroc, and Keaton is it.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): John Lee Hancock
- Producer(s): Don HandfieldJeremy RennerAaron Ryder
- Screenwriter(s): Robert D. Siegel
- Cast: Michael Keaton (Ray Kroc)Nick Offerman (Dick McDonald)John Carroll Lynch (Mac McDonald) Linda Cardellini (Joan Smith)B.J. Novak (Harry J. Sonneborn)Laura Dern (Ethel Kroc)Justin Randell Brooke (Fred Turner)Kate Kneeland (June Martino)Patrick Wilson (Rollie Smith)Griff Furst (Jim Zien)Wilbur Fitzgerald (Jerry Cullen)David de Vries (Jack Horford)
- Editor(s): Robert Frazen
- Cinematographer: John Schwartzman
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Daniel Orlandi
- Casting Director(s): Ronna Kress
- Music Score: Carter Burwell
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA