The origins of fast food…

REVIEW: The Founder

(M) Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch

Director John Lee Hancock has made a successful career of directing biopics such as The Blind Side and Finding Mr. Banks. This seems to give him the right pedigree to tell the mythical story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a milkshake mixer salesman who would eventually establish the largest fast food chain in the world, McDonalds. The Founder is set in the 1950s and 1960s and chronicles the true story of the salesman from Illinois who meets the McDonald brothers of San Bernadino, California, who started a revolutionary hamburger stand. Their partnership with Kroc helps to grow the McDonald’s brand across the United States, before their professional relationsip breaks down as Kroc gradually takes over the fast-food empire.

The founding of a fast food chain might not seem like the type of drama that garners attention from film studios, but this is McDonald’s. For a company that goes to such great lengths to protect its image and brand, it is intriguing that it would allow the public to see this less-than-favourable portrayal of its ‘founder.’

Hancock’s true-to-life portrayal of the on-the-road lifestyle of the travelling salesman is an accurate depiction of the mental anguish and desperation experienced by these individuals. Hancock is able to show why those who are cut from this cloth, like Ray Kroc, will pursue potential success with everything they have — whenever they get a sniff of it. The Founder proves that ingenuity is merely a small part of the journey to achievement. In the world of business, intellectual capital also has to be accompanied with passion and persistence. And on the road to prosperity, there usually are many that will be left behind in the process (such as business associates or family members). This representation of Ray Kroc’s journey includes all of that and becomes a success story which leaves its heart out on the pavement.

Michael Keaton is the perfect actor to embody the salesman who turns into a franchise owner and, eventually, becomes the self-proclaimed founder of McDonald’s. His ability to be winsome and vulnerable and, then, to turn into a diabolical business mogul is a masterclass for any actor who wants to develop chameleon-like abilities. Keaton is surrounded by an exceptional cast, but carries the vast majority of the screen time. John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman do provide the right foils, to attempt to come against Keaton’s tour-de-force of personality and manipulation. They give strong and sympathetic performances as the McDonald brothers and help to expose the vicious nature of the world of business.

Like many biopics, the challenge for Hancock is attempting to maintain the audience’s attention. The Founder‘s storyline does suffer from pacing issues. He does attempt to find unique elements within Kroc’s biography that have not been seen before in this genre. Also, Hancock is able to move through the years at a reasonable stride, but this will not appeal to the action-seekers coming along to the cinemas. As biopics go, though, this is a compelling story that will leave many less-than-enamoured with the founder of the Golden Arches — but it does provide an engaging experience at the flicks.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

An all pervasive aspect of The Founder is the value of persistence in work and life. Does God reward persistence and is this a biblical ideal? 

Persistence is also all-pervasive in the Bible. Such as the woman and judge in Luke 18, or throughout the Apostle Paul’s writings in the New Testament. The difference between the persistence of the Bible and The Founder is the ultimate aim of the persistence. The Bible’s example is set on focusing us on glorifying God or serving others, while the example in The Founder is for personal gain. The key to Godly persistence is found in the motivation and purpose. 

  1. What does the God have to say about my job? (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 2 Thessalonians 3:10)
  2. Why does the Bible have to say about persistence? (Luke 18: 1-8, Galatians 6:9)
  3. Does God care about my life? (Matthew 6: 8, 26)

 

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger




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