It’s 2017 and India, like most progressive economies is buzzing with the clamour about start-ups and entrepreneurship. One of the stories which has inspired a legion of individuals with a penchant for writing success stories with their one killer idea is the story of Raymond Albert Kroc, the “Founder” of the McDonald’s chain of fast-food restaurants. And to think that he did not even come up with the idea at the first place, but conjured up a success story purely based on one human character, persistence. Kroc’s resilience, his vision to create an almost parallel family gathering spot to the church and his aides who galvanized this unprecedented success story, make up the movie “ The Founder”. We did a bit of fact checking, and the movie does an honest job of portraying the events without succumbing to the lure of taking cinematic liberties. Having said that, the movie is ambivalent, as it reveres the establishment but veers towards antagonizing the founder towards the later part. That works in favour of the movie as the underlying theme throughout this chronological film is striving to achieve big and the occasional dirty laundry can be put away silently.
Michael Keaton plays Kroc, who is a struggling traveling milkshake machine salesman before he meets the McDonalds brothers whose concept restaurant of fast food, self service and the novelty of disposable packaging and a family focused customer base surprises him and he quickly gauges the potential of such a venture on a larger scale. Keaton brings to the screen the earnestness of a salesman and zeal of a revolutionary which had driven Ray Kroc to fight all odds to introduce the world to the concept of fast food franchises. Michael has been a resurrected actor in the last 3 years. Once counted among the A-listers, he had faded away from public memory and was left to do supporting roles in movies like The Other Guys, Herbie: Fully Loaded among others. But 2014’s Birdman revived his career, giving him the Golden Globe for best actor and since then he has taken meatier roles with substance. Here too, he imbibes the opportunistic eye of Ray Kroc and builds on it to keep the audience glued. For such a highly documented story, it’s the prerequisite of the director to appeal to everyone who has tasted failure, yet, desires success even more than previously. John Lee Hancock achieves the same through a quick build up to the main story. Ray is shown to be struggling with his salesman job and gets doors shut on his face despite his workmanlike dedication to it. Hancock captures the look of the mid-50s with vintage cars and heavy hairdos and also captures the omnipresent churches and hospitals which inspired Kroc to create a third establishment where Americans could converge, the fast food franchises, and not just on Sundays.
There is one stand out scene in the movie which gives you a perfect understanding of how these fast food franchises serve you in minutes which this takes place in the most unusual of locations, a tennis court. When Ray Kroc meets the McDonald brothers, he is smitten by their story and wants to hear it all and so invites them to a dinner. During their conversation, Mac describes how they started off as a drive away joint, but quickly saw the potential of a faster service and low capital venture. The key to the success of such an initiative is orchestration of functions. This was achieved through a carefully designed kitchen plan where the focus was on decreasing the time consumed and increased efficiency of workers. After hours of conducting the culinary orchestra, they reached a perfect set up which optimized every function. Ray saw the genius in the idea and within no time proposed to replicate the same across the country. The movie then develops into a Kroc blitzkrieg where he gets people to run franchises for him and expand exponentially.
Businesses in those times also followed the “dog eats dog” dictum and there was no better proponent of this than Ray Kroc himself. His unabashed use of the McDonald name as his own without ever crediting the founders showed his greed in achieving greatness. To be fair to him, the McDonald brothers never looked at their venture as anything more than an one restaurant idea, even if they did, they failed miserably. Kroc even plagiarized the inspirational speeches he used to hear during his low times. All said and done, perhaps sound business acumen of Kroc and a total lack of the same in the McDonald brothers made Ray Kroc appear in a negative light.
The movie is similar in treatment to The Social Network where a nerdy coder develops on an idea from the Winklevoss twins and creates the phenomenon known as Facebook today. But this movie one upped The Social Network in one aspect, acting. Keaton mesmerizes you, but the McDonald brothers are such a contrast to the crazy ways of Kroc that you start feeling for them, yet knowing the helplessness of the eventuality. Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald is uptight and the brains behind the fast food idea whereas John Carroll Lynch plays the lovable supporting kin Maurice McDonald. Both these men are fine character artists and the director leverages that by taking close ups of the actors to state their feelings. Every close up gives you the exact idea of the emotion going through the character at that moment. It is desperation at the start when Kroc looks into the camera to try and sell a product, submission to fate when Maurice looks on helplessly as Kroc hijacks his brand and loneliness when Kroc’s eventually estranged wife (a melancholy Laura Dern) looks on as her husband builds a juggernaut called McDonald’s.
The movie remains with you even after you leave the theatres as you juggle between righteousness and fraud and judge the characters individually. You end up on both sides of the McDonald story and thank God that it happened. And since you are thinking of it, the “golden arches” become more and more alluring and you end up going to your neighbourhood franchise of McDonald’s and munching on some delicious burgers.
gobblpoint: You might have read the story in some case study during college, but to watch the events unfold in front of your eyes and being enacted by legends is a totally different experience. You’ll Love It!
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