“The Founder”: From Busted to Billions of Burgers Bought

The late Ray Kroc was a selfish, conniving, hard-drinking, ruthless jerk. He was also the driving force behind the most successful restaurant franchise in the history of mankind. And what man, or woman, has not partaken in a meal from Kroc’s iconic Golden-Arched eateries? If you’ve never dined at McDonald’s you would certainly seem to be among a minority, as 1% of the planet’s population feeds from the bistro’s menu every single day.

Michael Keaton continues his brilliant career resurgence with an Oscar-caliber performance as the enigmatic hamburger king of kings. Keaton succeeds in giving us Kroc’s cold-hearted crustiness certainly. But the gifted veteran actor also taps into the mostly hidden heart of this no b.s. global giant of business, as well. For example, while simultaneously stealing the original passion project of the McDonald brothers for his own, Kroc also literally offers them a blank check to do his bidding.

While the guy was by and large a total a-hole, it is not made clear in the film why Kroc did not want Ethel (Laura Dern excelling in a typically natural turn), his first wife of three and of nearly 40 years, to benefit at all from the vast and burgeoning McDonalds’s empire when the couple divorced in the early 1960’s. Ethel is portrayed as a long-suffering supporter of an endless string of her husband’s harebrained sales schemes to get rich. And yet in a scene where Kroc has the opportunity to reward his decades-long and dutiful partner he fervidly refuses to do so. Evidently, this is a dynamic that Director John Lee Hancock and Writer Robert D. Siegel collectively chose not to explore. And it is particularly puzzling.

The Founder

“The Founder” is a rare commodity-a movie that is damn near as educational as it is entertaining. You may come away not necessarily wanting to have learned what a crappy sod the founder of odds is one of your fave fast food joints was in terms of how he treated too many people. But I’ll bet this knowledge doesn’t stop you from, at least on occasion, continuing to munch out on a mighty Big Mac. You want fries with that?

Don’t we all?