Burgers and treachery!
BQB here with a review of “The Founder.”
I hate Ray Kroc. That dude’s fast food chain has put absurd amounts of fat on my ass. Now I hate him even more as I learn he stole the whole shebang out from under the McDonald brothers.
Whoops. Spoiler. Oh well. Sorry. Learn your fast food history, people.
Michael Keaton, himself experiencing a renaissance in his acting career as of late, is a down on his luck, struggling milkshake machine salesman – a failure laughed at by everyone.
He can’t sell a single machine until he gets a strange order. A little hamburger stand in California named McDonald’s wants six of them. Curious about what kind of restaurant could use that many machines, Kroc seeks it out and is amazed.
The McDonald Brothers (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as Dick and Mack) have brought the Henry Ford assembly line concept to hamburger production. Dick especially has mapped it all out, distilled it all down to a science, getting everything just so, leaving the food quickly produced, tasting good, and getting customers on their way in no time.
It was a revolutionary concept. Drive-ins had been struggling with customers sitting in their cars, waiting for food and eating it there. This idea let customers take their food and leave. In other words, here’s your food now go. We’re done. No more waiting on you. The concept had never been tried before.
Kroc falls in love with the restaurant and offers to oversee franchising. The McDonalds have concerns, namely, that franchises will water down the quality of their brand. No one will put as much love and care into their business as they will.
Blah, blah, blah…Kroc seals the deal and he’s off to the races. It’s an epic tale of how a 52-year old man who was once a joke becomes a multi-billionaire, going from washed up hack to big time baller. At times the transition is hard to watch. Ray loses his down home folksy charisma and becomes a ruthless businessman. I won’t spoil what happens to the McDonalds but suffice it to say, it isn’t pretty.
Offerman and Lynch play sympathetic local businessmen who lived the American dream only to have it yanked out from under them. Offerman is exceptionally great in his monotone “Parks and Recreation” glory, explaining all the science he put into pushing his burgers out in rapid time without losing quality. Understandably, he goes ballistic as soon as Ray starts sacrificing quality.
Meanwhile, Lynch suffers health problems that are made worse by Ray’s double-cross.
Overall, the film is partly a comeback success story as we initially root for Ray as he goes from zero to hero, from the guy everyone laughed at to a big time mogul. Then the film takes a turn where we want to slap Ray around, especially as he kicks loyal wife Ethel (Laura Dern) to the curb for a younger model and of course, as he gives the McDonald Bros a vigorous screwing over.
The closest comparison I can draw is it is like Kroc is Walter White but with hamburgers instead of meth. At 52, his age has left him with a “don’t give a fuck” attitude. This is his shot at success. He’s done being Mr. Nice Guy. He’s ready for the big time and no longer cares about stepping over people to get what he wants.
A particularly heartwarming sequence comes when Kroc initially pitches the franchise idea to men who are already rich. These well to do types run lousy restaurants. They’ve earned their money so they don’t care. Kroc learns from this and begins seeking investors not on wealthy golf courses but instead, in fraternity lodges, churches, bingo games and the like, recruiting owner/operators who pay attention to every last detail because it is their savings and nancial future on the line.
Ultimately, it’s a story of the American Dream, combined with a warning of being careful who you trust and a study of how far should one be willing to go to achieve success.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Deserved more Oscar praise. Also, the McDonald brothers were right. Kroc ruined the quality of their food but I guess I’m the one who should be ashamed of myself because I stuff that shit in my suckhole anyway. Thanks for giving me a fat ass, Ray Kroc.