January 20, 2017 3:24:17 pm
The Founder movie director: John Lee Hancock
The Founder movie cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Laura Dern
It’s a sobering thought that McDonald’s was crafted by some middle-aged men in a hurry. Who packed in 30 seconds a hamburger reflective of its times — with more cars putting more families on the road looking for affordable, quality, quick food.
However, there was even more that went into those two slices of bread, holding “two pickles, four precise drops each of mustard and ketchup, and beef the right shade of pink, turned over once and pressed down”. It was the brand’s consistent association with American values, of hard work, honest worth, and of having a place where families could eat together, even out of a paper bag. The golden arches atop, adding just that dash of audacious ambition, were just the right touch.
The burgers were the creation of brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) McDonald. What they came to represent was the doing of another man, Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), on whom The Founder is based.
It’s not without reason that while the Brothers McDonald created the burger as well as the ‘Speedy System’ of a meal in 30 seconds that set their drive-in apart from the rest, it is Kroc on whom the film bestows the title of ‘the founder’, in a country where that word means a lot. Keaton plays him with the kind of innocent brashness that Americans love in their tycoons, drawing blood and painting it as essential, and invoking the value of honest hard work without any sense of irony. As we know now, it is enough these days to take you to President-ship.
However, the film itself is surprisingly shorn of any real sense of drama. The only time it hits you at a remotely human level is when Kroc, on a cold dining table, tells his long-neglected wife, who he likes less and less, that he wants a divorce. The wife, played by Laura Dern, is shattered but not for the usual reasons. However, The Founder spends very little time with them for it to matter.
We catch up with Kroc first in 1954 when he is desperately trying to sell a mixer that can churn out five milkshakes at a time, which no diner wants as they don’t have that kind of demand. This isn’t his first attempt at selling new things, without success, either. Kroc stumbles upon McDonald’s, located in the California area, when its owners order six of those mixers. He drives up, and is stunned by the efficiency the brothers have established through constant improvising.
The film gives us a quick lesson on the McDonald’s legend at this point, from the fact that the brothers’ first stop was Hollywood to that they sawed their old building “in half” to shift it to their present location, and that the McDonald’s kitchen was first conceptualised on a tennis court.
Kroc saw potential to grow big in what was till then a one-stop, though very popular, joint, and he finds ways such as hiring young couples to run franchises to expand the business.
While Lynch, a terrific actor otherwise, and Offerman don’t really get much screen time except at the other end of the phone from Kroc, The Founder focuses too much on the business side of things — including a passing reference to Coke sponsorship of menus — to give us an insight into the man whose ambition now feeds “1% of the world’s population” at any given time.
While trying to convince the McDonald brothers to let him expand their business, Kroc says he wants McDonald’s to be the “new American church”, where families can come together “every day” and not just Sunday. No one can dispute that he got that, and more. But surely it took more prayers and more fallouts than one over an instant milkshake mix.
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