Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder (2016)
Buy The Founder on Amazon Video
Written by: Robert Siegel
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, BJ Novak, Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson
Rated: PG-13

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!

Salesman Ray Kroc turned two brothers' innovative burger joint, McDonald's, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world through ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.

Keaton is always great and the origins of this story are engrossing, but once this becomes greedy guy attacks everyone around him for a few dollars it lost my interest. We've seen that story before and this mixed documentary and drama to such a great effect in the first half.
Offerman and Lynch are great as the McDonald brothers, and current McDonalds should take some queues from their speedy system, two menu items and your order is ready in seconds.
This is a great movie that drops the ball for the ending.
Watch it.

The first scene is well done with a tight opening on Keaton as he's hustling milkshake machines. It puts us right where I expected this movie would take us, with Kroc working the salesman angle in the 1950s. The diners are incredibly accurate. Where did they find them? Are they sets? The locations and sets are impeccable.

Kroc is struggling to sell milkshake machines and an order for six surely has to be a mistake. When the McDonalds brothers tell him they need eight, he has to check it out. He's having trouble selling just one.
I don't know if it's true, but the movie claims McDonalds invented ready made meals and eating out of the bag without flatware. The brothers developed a system for speedy food. I don't think McDonalds today is this automated, though it helps when the menu is limited. That and I'm not sure you could get teens to buy in. In the '50s working at McDonalds seemed like a career, not a throwaway job. A throwback diner could really excel in today's market.

This is part documentary and part process engineering. The scene where the brothers develop their kitchen system is really well done. It's setup, execution, and payoff. The movie excels on all fronts from editing and directing and even the integration of flashbacks. Offerman and Lynch play off each other extremely well. I would love to see more of them as they really stand out. Keaton could act his pants off and and convince you he's still fully clothed.
The brothers had the plan and Kroc had the ambition. The brothers see their dream becoming viable, Kroc sees dollar signs. Kroc doesn't care about safety, atmosphere, or efficiency. He wants to monopolize an idea. His concern only extends as far as brand identity that will ensure more franchises.

As Kroc becomes famous, he's embarrassed to admit he didn't found the first diner, happy to let everyone assumes he did. The last half runs into the greed is good trope we've seen in movies like this. It abandons developing Kroc and he pushes the brothers out of their own business. He presents a handshake deal on giving them one percent of the profits in perpetuity. I don't know why the brothers would trust him after what he's done to them. Even if you just wanted to excise Kroc out of your life, you have to know you're leaving a lot of money on the table. Kroc never honored that handshake agreement. This is a story of why good people don't succeed. Kroc tells the brothers just as much.

The end is drastically truncated, with a quick flash forward showcasing Kroc's wealth and importance, but we don't delve into the man, not like the first half did. The second half could have focused on Kroc's decision to become sole heir to the empire, making it more emotional. It also could have focused on the brothers seeing their dream excel with someone else at the helm.What we got wasn't very original. A small focus on the characters would have helped instead of trying to cram the high points of the story into the film.
The final scene has Kroc hand out a business card with the title "founder" on it. The brothers never got any of their promised royalties. The good borrow, the great steal.

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