God damn do I love McDonald’s – almost as much as I love watching movies. Now, a movie ABOUT McDonald’s? What could be better?
As it turns out, not too much. The Founder is a truly enjoyable origin story about the most successful (and most delicious) food franchise in history, and it keeps you hooked from start to finish.
The story follows over-the-hill inventor and struggling Midwestern salesman Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) as he takes a small burger operation in Southern California ran by two brothers and tries to build it into an international franchise. The brothers, Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carrol Lynch and Nick Offerman, respectively), quickly discover that going into business with Kroc was the worst decision they have ever made. The Founder is a story of ambition, persistence, ruthlessness… and burgers.
Everyone loves origin stories, especially those that teach you how the food that made you so damn fat was created. The Founder is fun, well-paced story that covers the full timeline of how McDonald’s went from a small burger joint to the international juggernaut it is today.
Keaton really does a smashing job here, delivering a character that you hate to love, and we won’t gloss over the fact that Nick Offerman’s role taps into elements of Ron Swanson. While there aren’t that many direct interactions between these characters, the movie does a good job of building tension via the means of communication in the 1950s (telephone and snail mail). This aspect did well to depict how frustrating it was back then to keep tabs on elements of your life and how easy it was to lie and get laid without the internet.
What is most interesting about the movie, is that it shows that good values and following the straightest path is not what wins in the world of business. You are almost rooting for Keaton to fail by the end, but looking down at your belly quickly reminds you that he succeeds, wildly. There is no quote that better represents the tone and outcome of the movie than:
You run a burger stand in the desert. I’m national. You’re fucking local.
I will note that it does fall off a tiny bit in the third act, which is only natural as the novelty of the movie begins to fade and the hunger for a McDouble grows. However, The Founder is an overall fantastic movie and well worth your time to watch.