Biopics are tricky things. When you know that a movie is based on a true story, you are often left to wonder how much of the characters and events portrayed are factual. The Founder, directed by John Lee Hancock, is a rarity as it is totally and utterly believable.
It follows the story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) a travelling salesman in the food industry who is at the end of his tether. After several unsuccessful attempts to sell his milkshake machine, he returns home to his wife who is seemingly at the end of her tether, too. He receives a large order from a new fast-food restaurant, McDonald’s and everything changes.
Knowing very little about the mega-franchise, aside from the staggeringly unhealthy processed ingredients, I was unsure what to expect. I certainly didn’t want to watch a film about burgers. Given that I know what McDonald’s has become; I assumed it would be a fairly boring story.
I was surprised to learn that Ray was not the founder of the restaurant but of the franchise. The creators, Mack (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) McDonald, were tired of the slow service of drive-ins and wanted to shorten the usual 30 minute wait for food to 30 seconds. They created a custom made kitchen with bespoke gadgets and allocated perpetration areas. The concept alone is genius and undoubtedly breathed life into future establishments, such as Subway.
The film provides perspective of how fast-food in the 50s was an alien concept. Being a native of fast-food culture – this adds to the depth of the narrative. Watching Ray Kroc sit down on a bench looking bemused at his bag of food, wondering where the plates are, is a magical scene. The most fascinating thing about The Founder is how everything people detest about McDonald’s is arguably down to Ray.
The detached over-commercialised mega business that we find today is a far cry from the home-grown golden arches the brothers envisaged. Instead of seeing this as a film about burgers, instead see it as a film about ruthless determination, and what that really means in the world of business. It was an entertaining watch that will remind us all that everything has a back-story. You don’t get as big as McDonald’s without killing a few cows.