Friday, January 20, 2017

Film Review - The Founder

Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a struggling milkshake mixer salesman traveling the Midwest in 1954. He goes from Drive-in to Drive-in giving his: What Came First speech The Chicken or The Egg ending by asking the restaurant owner if he can see that more volume will mean more sales only to be rejected time after time. After a particularly bad rejection he checks in at the office to hear of an order for 6 multi mixers from a couple of brothers in San Bernardino, California. Thinking it's a mistake he calls to hear chaos on the other end of the phone and confirm that it was a mistake they need eight  instead of six. Curios he looks at the map, finds route 66 and takes it from Missouri to California to check out the restaurant himself.

Ray Kroc McDonald's story is similar to many that came before and will be repeated again and again. The person who is most associated with a hugely successful enterprise is not always the originator or  the genius that came up with the concept. It's often the person who saw the true potential of the endeavour that ends up sitting across a table from the originator in a room full of lawyers striking a deal for an amount that would fill a thimble compared to the ultimate earnings of the company. The visionary normally gets a few helpful hints from like-minded individuals along the way that make the expansion even bigger.

Mark Zukerberg saw a computer based yearbook; Facebook having to grudgingly pay off the Winklevoss twins and getting two pieces of key advise from Napster inventor Sean Parker send the idea out to Stanford students and drop the "THE" in The Facebook. Bill Gates saw the real gem was controlling and licensing and owning the software on the personal computer and not running the computer business itself. Therefore he split from working with IBM to form Microsoft. Steve Jobs rose above more talented colleagues at Apple seeing iPods overtaking Walkmans, iPhones over flip phones, iTunes replacing record stores and iPads overshooting notepads, charts and books.

Before the McDonald Brothers knew what was coming Ray Kroc had literally bought the land out from under their feet with the help of smart businessman Harry Sonneborn (B.J.Novak). He also found a partner in Joan Smith (Linda Cardellini) who could see the big picture as opposed to his wife Ethel Kroc (Laura Dern) who seemed to stunt his creativity more often than not.

Director John Lee Hancock and writer Robert Siegel do not stray far from the standard narrative of the McDonalds story. Ray Kroc swoops in gets a foot in the door and through his main driving quality of persistence pushes the brothers further and further off to the sidelines. Michael Keaton is gloriously slithery in the lead role while Linda Cardellini is the other notable performer in the film as Minnesota franchise owner Joan Smith who also grasps where the McDonald's franchise could go.

The Founder is a standard biopic on a topic that everyone knows that the production team could have pushed the boundaries to tell a bigger story but does not to do so. The early part of the film laid out markers that could have fostered an intriguing tale but except for the few and far between scenes featuring Kroc's interactions with Cardellini's Joan Smith the balance of the piece does not do enough to hold the viewer's attention. The film is not about genius or invention its message is persistence conquers all with business being more rat eat rat over dog eat dog unfortunately storytelling falls into the same category as eating a McDonalds sandwich. The first few bites are wonderful but by the time you're halfway through you regret your food choice as the inevitable bellyache begins to take hold.

** Out of 4.

The Founder | John Lee Hancock | USA | 2016 | 115 minutes.

Tags: Salesman, McDonald's, Fast Food, Biography, Franchise, Loan, Greed, Corporation, Handshake Deal, Illinois, Minnesota, Divorce, California.

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