The Founder, rated PG-13
The Founder tells the true story of the founding of McDonald’s, but it is a less than positive portrayal of Ray Kroc as a man.
The low budget film (just $7 million) is directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), and written by Robert D. Siegel (The Wrestler). Oscar winner (Birdman) Michael Keaton stars as Ray Kroc. The film begins in 1954. Kroc is a traveling milkshake-mixer salesman in the Midwest for Prince Castle. It’s a hard job and we see him repeatedly getting turned down for sales while he eats at drive-in restaurants.
He then receives a call from his secretary that will change his life. A restaurant in San Bernardino, California wants to buy an unheard of eight of his large mixers. He drives across the country to the restaurant owned by the likeable brothers Maurice “Mac” (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) McDonald. There he sees something he’s never seen before – a fast-food restaurant, selling just hamburgers, fries and drinks.
The brothers are honest businessmen, and though not rich, are satisfied with the success they are having. Kroc however, sees much more potential. His vision is to take the restaurant that the brothers developed to the rest of the country. Although they are initially hesitant, they eventually agree to partner with him, a decision that they will soon come to regret.
Laura Dern stars as Kroc’s wife Ethel. She tries to be supportive of Ray, as she lives a lonely life by herself at their home in Arlington Heights, Illinois, as he is on the road most of the time. Ray will divorce her for Joan (Linda Cardellini), a younger woman, the wife of a restaurant owner who would become one of his franchise owners.
Themes in the film are betrayal, trust, regret, greed, deception and theft. The film is rated PG-13 for a small amount of adult language and the abuse of God’s name.
Keaton is outstanding in his portrayal of Kroc. I’ve read about the story of McDonald’s in John Maxwell’s book 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership as he discusses “The Law of the Lid”. The Law of the Lid is that “Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness”. Maxwell writes “Leadership ability – or more specifically the lack of leadership ability – was the lid on the McDonald’s brother’s effectiveness”. The film clearly shows that Kroc had vision and leadership, which resulted in McDonald’s being what it is today. The McDonald brothers may not have had the leadership ability that Kroc had, but they had much more character, and I would prefer to have that.