The Founder is a cinematic happy meal to cherish before Donald Trump delivers his inaugural speech as the next US President. Director John Lee Hancock addresses the appetite just right. He layers his protagonist with despair, positivity and opportunity; adds passion, tension, amazing salesmanship skills and dollops of betrayal to taste; mixes it all to form a storyline patty, and deep-fries it in real-world monstrosity. For garnish, there’s business acumen.
The story of the massive”McDonald’s” empire. Served hot. With bad cholesterol.
Audience first meet Kroc (a brilliant Michael Keaton) in 1952, where he shows up all magnetic at a drive-in trying to sell a new-tech milkshake mixer. Owner doesn’t want to buy. So he goes to another drive-in, where he might be able to sell one machine after all. These folks don’t want it either. After many unsuccessful attempts, the bundle of frustration heads back to his hotel room and plays a recording of ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’.
New day, new vigor, and off he goes to have some other joint owner close the door at him. It’s raining rejections when he gets a call that an innovative burger-joint based out of San Bernardino are interested in buying many of his milkshake machines. Intrigued by this purchase order, he visits their joint and is surprised to find a huge queue disperse in minutes. After congratulating the owner on the efficiency, he is invited to have an inside tour. The revolutionary technology, as Ray puts it, is “like something spun from the mind of Henry Ford.” He’s mesmerized by the process and it eats him crazy that he’s not part of something so big. He proposes a deal to the McDonald brothers. Pondering over his deal for long, they finally agree. The rest, as they say, is business.
Ray Kroc’s story has circulated several times in the biz-world, but where The Founder finds a seating is that it never really mixes sentiment with its storytelling. It provides a solid backstory to the franchise that’s spread across the globe, how Ray outfoxed the McDonald brothers out of their stake in the company. There’s no romanticising Ray’s ascend to fortune, no sugarcoating the facts, and nothing blown out of proportion for the sake of it. Robert Siegel’s screenplay is smart, and beautifully captures in-depth moments of the unfolding drama. I specially loved the documentary-treatment given to how the McDonald brothers came up with their super-efficient kitchen design.
I’ve always felt sad for the brothers. To have your legacy snatched from you so cruelly, that could break any man. Lesson learnt – never trust a handshake agreement. It’s a tearjerker when they rename their joint and put up a sub-sign that says ‘We’ve been here since 23 years.” I’m not lovin’ it. But what I did love is John Carroll Lynch’s and Nick Offerman’s amazing performances here.
The Founder opens our eyes on the villainies of capitalism and does a smart, entertaining work at that.