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.
“The Founder” is an entertaining movie based on a true story and features an excellent performance by Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc. He is a down-on-his-luck salesman pitching a five-spindle milkshake machine and who deals with “Nah, but thanks anyways” far too often. He is ignored and feels the pressure of making a living. On top of this, he doesn’t enjoy a good relationship with his wife, played by Laura Dern. When he receives an order for six milkshake machines, “No, better make that eight,” from the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, California, he instantly becomes intrigued. He maps out his route and hits Route 66 and heads their way. He is overwhelmed when he arrives and sees the speedy operation of the McDonald brothers’ restaurant—the paper bags and lack of plates, not to mention the big crowds and great prices. He orders a hamburger, fries and a soft drink for just 35 cents. Their combination of two pickles, a pinch of onions, and a precise amount of ketchup and mustard work together to make the perfect hamburger.
As he explains later, he fell in love with the name “McDonalds” and believes that a restaurant with his own name, “Kroc” on it, would fail. However, despite a contract with the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald, he is barely surviving and they continually refuse to incorporate his bigger ideas. While at the bank to hold off the wolves who wish to devour his house, a man overhears his conversation and winds up talking him into making his real money off of real estate and leasing properties for the restaurant chain. This leads to confrontations between himself and the McDonald brothers, and one is left to draw one’s own conclusions. Did Kroc steal the McDonald’s empire from the two brothers, or did he make them rich and the Golden Arches a famous and familiar scene?
Keaton is energetic and plays his role very well, giving the audience a beaten man who becomes determined to turn his fortunes around—and does. The word “persistence” is used several times and is the key to Kroc’s success. The scenes of old cars, the clothing of the fifties, old pay phones and rotary phones, and the more innocent time period all combine to make an interesting and nostalgic film. Regrettably, due to a married man’s interest in a married woman, and strong and harsh language, we are not able to award our coveted Dove Seal to the movie.