New to On Demand: The Founder

The Founder © 2016 The Weinstein Company Credit: Daniel McFadden

Most of us have indulged in McDonald’s at one time or another. But, how many of us know the story behind the story of those legendary “golden arches” and their rollout across America? The Founder, featuring Michael Keaton as legendary businessman Ray Kroc, takes us behind the scenes of the fast food empire’s rise.

A milkshake machine salesman from the Midwest, Ray Kroc stumbles upon something amazing when a small restaurant in California wants a number of his machines to keep up with demand. When Kroc meets owners Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) McDonald, he is enamored with the amazing system they have in place.

The concept — to make good hamburgers, fast and with consistency — was just the beginning, and Kroc set out to franchise this idea and system. When he finally got the brothers to let him into their circle, Kroc’s idea for rapid expansion met with trepidation. The brothers wanted careful, moderate growth based on quality. But that was not in line with Kroc’s idea for speedy growth and new risks, which could compromise the system the McDonalds held dear.

Soon Ray would have to take control in order to realize the vision he saw for McDonald’s, and that control would come at any cost. Could the company survive?

Keaton is solid in his role as the iconic Kroc. He delivers a performance that sometimes makes you want to punch him, and other times leaves you with a simple smile. This is definitely an actor’s film, as there are many small characters along the way creating a first-class environment.

But it felt like a story that wanted to have it both ways. I felt there was never a direction that I could grab hold of and really get excited about. Was Kroc a good guy? Not really. Was he a bad guy? Nope. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Innovation drives us forward to create great things. As you watch The Founder, there is a bit of longing for the simplicity of the past. McDonald’s is the place that the brothers created, but Ray Kroc developed it into a behemoth.

This is more of a character study of a piece of Americana than anything else. How much is true, is always debatable. I do know that McDonald’s couldn’t have become the global icon that it is today without everyone who touched it. Love him or hate him, Ray Kroc was the face of this proud franchise and, at least for now, I’m going to grab a hamburger and bask in the golden glow of those arches.

The Founder is available On Demand beginning April 18. Check your cable system for availability.