Thursday, 2 March 2017


Due to a misunderstanding of cinema times I ended up unexpectedly seeing 'The Founder' the other day. The first silver screen title to focus on McDonalds since 'Super Size Me' way back in 2004. What is basically the true story of a man called Ray Kroc, a shrewd and persistent middling 1950s business man with a huge dream turned out to be quite the thriller. Wether you're fan of McDonalds and their ethos or not, this film gives a really interesting, balanced look at something that happened once upon a time in America that spawned one of the biggest global brands we've ever seen.

When I sat down I really didn't know what to expect. I thought it would be interesting and informative and it really was that. From more or less the start it was a really deep, in-depth look at a particular strand of Americana. Everything was pastel coloured, it was 1954. People ate burgers and fries. The story starts with Michael Keaton front and centre delivering a monologue with so much gusto it forces you to pay attention. He's a salesman trying to sell a milkshake blender that blends 8 milkshakes at a time. He's saying create faster, have more products and people will flock knowing they can get a fast service. Chicken then egg. He's working long, taxing days driving around getting laughed out the door by the owners of all but one diner; McDonalds, way out in San Bernardino, California.

It so turns out that 'speed' plays a big, big part in this story. What this little McDonalds eatery was already doing was changing the game in the diner scene and basically giving birth to 'fast food' as we know it. This naturally spoke to Ray Kroc's soul and it was love at first sight. Cue a second chapter that's effectively the story of Ray's wrestle with his wife, his peers, his reputation and the owners of McDonalds to convince them he wasn't mad for dreaming big. This wasn't another one of his mad money making pipe dreams, and more that he was envisioning McDonalds like we know it today. 

The film was full of incredible little quotable quips and mantras that these men live by. The script was really wonderful. The harmonious McDonalds kitchen that works perfectly and efficiently is referred to as a 'Symphony of motion' by Dick McDonald, the more pragmatic and measured McDonalds brother played so well by Nick Offerman. At the end of a bad day Kroc plays a self help record encouraging him to stay focused, that states 'a man is what he thinks about all day.' I could give you a hundred more. The dialogue between Kroc and the two brothers who own McDonalds in incredibly paced, tense, sharp and funny.

The story is what makes this film though, and it's hard to stray too far from that. Visually the film delivered, the script was great too but the story was the bread and butter. I guess because McDonalds is such a giant now it's hard to picture it's humble beginnings, and I never knew the road to how it become what it is today was so bumpy. Keaton (as you'd imagine he would) steals the show, with a portrayal of a character that constantly reveals different elements and depth with every scene as the movie wears on. He was clearly a visionary who was just waiting for his vehicle. A man who starts the film as a bit of an embarrassed lost cause turns into a focused, ruthless, cold hearted business man.

When trying to convince the brothers of the goldmine they're unknowingly sat on Ray Kroc states that 'McDonald's can be the new American church.' Here we are, decades later, well aware of the giant it did end up becoming, presented with a wonderful film that brings to light an interesting and lesser known story of how the little man will eventually get fucked over. If you're looking for a quant, typically american story about moral values and business, go for this. It's a ride.

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