Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman from Illinois, meets Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman), who are running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Impressed by the brothers' speedy system of making the food at their San Bernardino hamburger stand and the crowds of patrons it attracts, Kroc immediately sees franchise potential and maneuvers himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and start a billion-dollar empire: McDonald's. (Based on a true story.)
Review by Louise Keller:
A ripper of a story in which persistence and determination forge the pathway to success, this is an enthralling film filled with surprises. To begin with, the story about the origins of McDonalds, the largest burger franchise in the world, that feeds 1% of the world's population, is not a success story about a burger business, but that of real estate. With a superb script by Robert D. Siegel, who penned The Wrestler (2008), director John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr Banks, 2013) tells the story simply, emphasising the human elements and relationships that make it personal. Following his roles in Birdman (2014) and Spotlight (2015), it is a splendid vehicle for Michael Keaton, who embodies the essence of the struggling salesman seeking success no matter what.
The film begins in 1954 by exposing us to the bumpy road travelled by professional salesman Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) driving around St Louis, Missouri in his powder blue Plymouth Belvedere, suffering knock back after knock back for his latest sales pitch - a commercial milkshake machine. The LP record about the power of positivity played every night in his dingy motel room provides the inspiration to keep him going. 'Nothing takes the place of persistence...'
Frustration from waiting excessive amounts of time for meals in the trendy drive-in restaurants of the day, coupled with a surprise large order prompts Kroc's opportunistic nature to drive to San Bernadino, California to a thriving hamburger restaurant run by brothers Dick and Ray (Mac) McDonald, whose strict quality control and custom built kitchen facilities delivers speedy, high quality burgers. The revolutionary business is a 'symphony of efficiency'. Franchise is the magic word, but the long, painful journey from uttering it and putting it into successful execution, is another story.
The heart of the film involves the challenging relationship between Ray and the two McDonald brothers as the balance of control for the business changes, as does the business model. The casting of the brothers is crucial: Dick (Nick Offerman), operation driver and ideas man and Mac (John Carroll Lynch), with delicate health. Other key roles include Laura Linney as Ray's neglected wife, Cara Mantella as Ray's efficient office manager, Patrick Wilson as a successful restaurateur and J.B. Novak as the lawyer who helps him unravel legal obstacles. Watch for the restaurant scene when Ray meets Joan (Linda Cardellini) the beautiful blonde pianist in a red dress, with whom he sings Pennies From Heaven. It's a memorable moment for many reasons.
Ultimately as Ray achieves his dream, you cannot help but feel for the McDonald brothers whose inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate destroys theirs. Propelled by great production design that takes us into the era, this is an inspiring story based on real events and one you will not want to miss.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In this company biopic of the golden arched McDonald's empire, the three parents provide character studies that make it more a Shakespearean drama than dry company history. Robert D. Siegel - whose memorable, award winning screenplay for The Wrestler is a solid recommendation - has crafted a screenplay in which the birth of McDonald's and the death of a salesman's morality are intertwined. That's why it's such a fascinating story, and Michael Keaton provides us with a strikingly effective, complex and insufferable Ray Kroc, who ends up claiming to be the founder.
The McDonald brothers Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) are the soul of the business, but it's Kroc who is the entrepreneur to turn their successful burger stall into a global franchise now feeding 1% of the world's population every day.
Told in chronological order, with all the tension and interest this generates, the film strives for authenticity in every way, from the detailed and scrupulous production design to the exploration of the characters - not just the three men at the centre but others who play crucial roles, such as Laura Dern as Kroc's first wife Ethel, and Linda Cardellini as Joan, his second. The key roles of the brothers are superbly fulfilled, sensitively written and delivered to do justice to their sincerity and honesty.
The inbuilt dramatic tension doesn't kick in until Kroc realises the potential of fast food as a restaurant business beyond one location. He starts as a none too successful salesman but ends up as perhaps the world's most successful one. Our sympathies see-saw as the story develops.
There are many fascinating details about the intricacies of this now familiar name, much of it surprising for its detail. We come away with a new image of the company - or at least the company of men that gave birth to what is today a household name. We also learn that Ray Kroc's mantra, which he picks up from a 'positive thinking' self help album, is 'perseverance'.
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FOUNDER, THE (M)
CAST: Michael Keaton, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, Nick Offerman, Laura Dern, B.J. Novak, John Carroll Lynch, Steve Coulter, Catherine Dyer
PRODUCER: Don Handfield, Jeremy Renner, Aaron Ryder
DIRECTOR: John Lee Hancock
SCRIPT: Robert D. Siegel
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Schwartzman
EDITOR: Robert Frazen
MUSIC: Carter Burwell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Corenblith
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 24, 2016