Based on a true story films are tricky, there is always that fine line between what you can show and tell and how to make it compelling enough to hold your audiences attention. Some take liberties with the truth and others try to stay on track and not take too many liberties. Truth is certainly stranger than fiction, which is why these true life stories interest us. With THE FOUNDER we are presented with how a single restaurant that revolutionised fast food and became a global franchise that now feeds 5% of the worlds population. McDonald’s has just always been there, it is difficult to imagine it started as a single restaurant, and here in lies some of the fascinating truths in this film.
Travelling salesman Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) gets a call for a milkshake machine that he is selling, in a larger volume than he ever expected. When he finds out it is for a restaurant he decides to travel to California to see the place for himself. The restaurant is called McDonalds and run by brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman), the efficiency and speed of their service impresses Ray to the point that he becomes obsessed. He wants to franchise the business, and while working with the brothers begins to sell opportunities to franchisees and begins to take the business for himself and away from the brothers.
The film takes an interesting approach in telling the story, with the beginning showing us Ray as the salesman and not having much luck in his travels selling his milkshake machine. His interest in the McDonald brothers and their restaurant also becomes the audiences interest as we see how they came up with the concept of their kitchen. The kitchen is run in such a way that food can be cooked and delivered with ease to the customers, so people are not waiting and the food is actually good. Ray can see there is a huge potential in this business and food delivery, something that the brothers are quite content with keeping to themselves. They have a good reason to keep it that way, as they did try to franchise it but the other restaurants were not run properly. Their passion is deep, and so is Ray’s as he does see this as something that can be a big money maker and a great opportunity.
Ray as portrayed in the film is motivated when he sees McDonald’s and what it could be, the brothers love their business but they do not want to see other places run poorly. Each side of this can be understood and seen by the audience, they both have valid points and it makes this such compelling viewing. Whether or not the real Ray Kroc was as ruthless as seen in the film is something that only the people who knew him would know, but for the sake of this film it does work. He isn’t entirely sympathetic, but his views on the restaurant and the franchise opportunity does make sense. The need and desire for him to succeed is there, and to see how McDonald’s started is truly an eye opening experience. Ray wants to have these restaurants run properly as the brothers do, and he does understand the need to have this. His business ideas continue to grow as the brothers begin to get shut out, while the franchising is not entirely profitable for Ray at first, he soon comes across someone who gives him advice on how to make money. At times the film does get frustrating, we can see the opportunities that Ray sees but the stubbornness the brothers have feels like a step back for them. Sometimes all it does take is for someone to see the idea and run with it and expand upon it, but what happens along the way is quite sad.
The performances in this film are fantastic, Michael Keaton does disappear into the role of Ray Kroc, he hits all the right notes. Despite Ray as a character not being the most likeable he certainly makes him extremely compelling and easy to watch. These past few years Keaton has given us some superb performances and he continues to deliver, and is easily one of the must watch actors at the moment. Nick Offerman was almost unrecognisable as Dick, his signature moustache gone and he’s quite toned down. There is a great passion within this performance, and while Offerman is mostly known for his comedic work he showcases what a great dramatic actor he really is. John Carroll Lynch is also extremely engaging and was more of a sympathetic character, each of these actors played off of each other perfectly. Lynch and Offerman shared a great chemistry as brothers, and it felt very natural. The supporting cast are also very good, with Laura Dern as Ray’s first wife, who gets left behind as he travels for work and gets engulfed into his business. Linda Cardellini as the woman who Ray meets down the track and falls for is also very good, and there is quite a spark about her.
Major props need to be given to director John Lee Hancock, he has crafted an incredibly engaging film and has an interesting approach to this material. It is almost difficult to believe that Robert D. Siegel’s script was on the ‘Black List’, this script is really fantastic and it certainly does not pander about the actual product and it does not try to sell you on McDonald’s. As far as based on a true story goes, in doing some research it seems they did not take many liberties and a lot of these things actually did happen. These events paved the way for McDonald’s to take over the world and open the door for other fast food chains and restaurants, and it all started with one single place whose masterminds had the idea for the perfect concept. THE FOUNDER is one of 2016’s most interesting films and absolutely worth the time.