McDonald's and its trademark "Golden Arches" are known worldwide for serving hot food quickly. In any restaurant you walk into, you will see a sign proclaiming Ray Kroc as its founder. While not truly incorrect, that statement doesn't reveal the whole story surrounding the multimillion dollar corporation. Ray Kroc may have founded "The McDonald's Corporation" but he is not the mastermind behind the assembly line food production industry. That distinction belongs to two brothers and their cautionary tale is detailed in The Weinstein Brothers movie The Founder.
Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton; Spotlight) was a middle-aged milkshake machine salesman making a modest living while peddling his wares from coast to coast. Generally, he is lucky to get an order for one multi mixer, so when a restaurant in San Bernardino California orders 6 machines, he figures there must be some mistake and drives there to see what is going on. What he finds is a thriving establishment that serves hot burgers and fries in mere seconds and is amazed at the assembly line the owners Mac (Maurice) McDonald (John Carroll Lynch; American Horror Story) and his brother Dick (Richard) McDonald (Nick Offerman; Parks and Recreation) have created.
Kroc immediately sees an opportunity and signs a contract to help the Brothers franchise their operation to adequate success. However, because of the way the deal was signed, Kroc finds himself out of capital and cash and tries to renegotiate. He also tries to get the brothers to change business practices to no avail and he had no clout due to the contract he signed. A chance meeting made Kroc rethink his business plan and eventually force the McDonald brothers to sell McDonald's to him, essentially putting them out of business. So, while Kroc is the Founder of "The McDonald's Corporation" he wasn't the founder of the original McDonald's, the speedy model of food service or the franchisee idea.
While The Founder is a movie about business, greed, and capitalism, it also has some unique aspects that set it apart. The details about the McDonald's brothers and the way they created the speedy food service industry, which eventually revolutionized chain restaurants around the world, is informative and interesting. Writer Robert Siegel (The Wrestler) does a terrific job of explaining the business and the legal jargon while not bogging the script down with minutia.
Producers also scored a win with Keaton as Kroc. His screen presence is palpable as he takes us on Kroc's journey from downtrodden salesman to ruthless business tycoon in the matter of an hour. Keaton commands attention (much as I suspect Kroc did) in every scene of the film and his energy jumps out at you drawing the audience into his world. Offerman and Carroll Lynch are formidable allies in opposition to Keaton and their synchronicity helps make their fictional brotherly relationship believable.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p High Definition video and DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio. The clarity of both aspects makes the film entirely enjoyable to watch. The visuals are well done and the set production and costumes are terrifically authentic which comes across beautifully in high-quality video. The Blu-ray also offers a few extras including an eye-opening video from the press conference for the film and a Behinds the scenes five-part feature including interviews with Keaton, Offerman, Carroll Lynch, Siegel, and Director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) and a look at how the production team built the original McDonald's from scratch. The pieces are insightful and enjoyable while offering a little bit of nostalgia.
Kroc initially comes across as a likable enough guy, but eventually, changes to a man one wants to despise. The Founder may evoke sympathy for the McDonald brothers and their descendants and may turn fans of McDonald's off the franchise, as it left me angry and sad and tired of greedy people and the corporations they run. However, as a film, it is powerful and interesting and worth watching.