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The Founder is one of the earlier Oscar bait releases with the resurgent heat of Michael Keaton at its centre with a performance no less engaging than his recent ones in Spotlight and Birdman. Slickly directed by John Lee Hancock with an award winning cast and something to say about one of the lynchpins of latter 20th Century Western consumerism, if there is a shortcoming it is this pure and simple, Ray Kroc ‘The Founder’ of McDonalds was an absolute prick. A mean cruel man ruthlessly destroying lives for his own selfish needs that at the end of it didn’t get anything coming to him. Without the duality of say a character like Tony Soprano it’s hard as an audience member to watch this and not leave the theatre a little bummed out. The only justice to be found maybe in the fact that maybe this outrage will grow in numbers due to the film’s release.

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Fifty two year old travelling salesman Ray Kroc is selling milkshake makers in 1955 when he receives an order from two brothers running a diner out in San Bernardino, California. There he meets Maurice McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and Richard McDonald (Nick Offerman) who has perfected a system of making consistently uniform food of good quality delivered instantly as you place the order. Kroc is blown away by their innovation but it is when he sees their failed franchise venture complete with Golden Arches that he possibly falls in love for the first time in his life. Related image

He has reached an age at that time where he could comfortably slip into retirement and have a good life. Ray does not want a good life though, he wants a great life and Ray proves most sympathetic when we see him dismissed at every turn for his failed ventures and looked down upon by others who have enjoyed more success. Unfortunately he does not value personal relationships nor the loyalty, kindness and trust of others. His wife Ethel played by Laura Dern is a buttress of patient support while dealing with her own loneliness and his deceit. Married younger women whispering down the end of telephone lines “Are you a bold man?” get him more excited.

McDonalds feeds 1% of the entire global population on a daily basis. Could something that big be built without ruthlessness shown to others. The McDonalds brothers themselves exasperate Ray at various points as he sets up their franchise stores because they don’t want to compromise the quality of the store at any cost. If they’d had their own way would McDonalds exist today? Robert Siegel’s screenplay has some great moments describing how The Golden Arches would become synonymous with America as much as Church Crosses and court houses were and how your own personal identity let alone your business can be bought and stricken from the record if the law and big money is on the other guy’s  side. It’s well made and a little fascinating but it sure as hell won’t make you feel like ba da ba ba bah lovin Ray Kroc.

-Lloyd Marken

38 thoughts on “RAY KROC…WHAT AN ASSHOLE!

  1. Sounds good, and Keaton looks to be ideally cast. I will give this one a go, definitely. Especially as I pretty much hate that burger chain, and refuse to buy anything from it!
    (I make use of the toilets when I am stuck though, so it’s good for something…)
    Cheers, Pete.

  2. Fine review, Lloyd. If you haven’t seen it, take a gander at the 2008 documentary, Food, Inc. Probably just as enlightening and depressing, with Kroc and McDonald’s as a cornerstone.

  3. Great review, Lloyd. I saw the preview in the theater and just love Keaton’s face and all his expressions and mannerisms. That Ray Kroc was a crock of shit doesn’t surprise me, but I’m sorry just the same.

  4. I’m really torn about this film: Keaton is GREAT – a terrific, nuanced performance, and the film is fascinating as well – but what we find out as the movie rolls on is exactly what you said: Kroc was disreputable, so what is there to admire? We never really understand except to see a man who failed ALOT until his break came…and how did he handle that success? He cheated everyone…a depressing message for sure!

    1. Hey Jim, you wouldn’t happen to be the Jim from Texas who commented on my Youth review last year would you? In any event welcome to the site and yes you are correct about Ray as depicted in the film. Obviously people are feeling the same way after watching The Founder, this review is getting more reviews than any of my other posts and I think it’s partly due to shared sentiment.

  5. And to think if he never drove out to that burger joint in San Bernardino or if the brothers never ordered those mixers, there would never be a McDonald’s chain, wow !

  6. I watched this and in the beginning I saw Ray as a sympathetic guy. Someone to root for. But at the end I was just deflated and saddened as to what a bastard he was. I actually stopped eating McDonalds because of it LOL. Then I thought, well this is a movie and wanted to do some research and see if any of it was true. What I found was shocking. It’s all true. Normally movies over embellish. But this actually made him seem nicer than real life. He was a total bastard who screwed Dick and Mac totally over. Stil not eating McDonalds. Good review, glad I am not the only one who walked away with a bad taste for McDonalds over it. I am surprised McDonalds agreed to it.

  7. What are you talking about? Who is an asshole? Kroc is just a businessman seeing the opportunity. Strange, I didn’t have this feeling that the film showed Kroc in a negative light. Business is business, and as the film showed it, he just helped to rocket the chain. Yeah, unfair here and there, but that’s life. I actually sympathised with Kroc, and not the brothers….Maybe I need to see a doctor? lol

    1. Maybe, 🙂 I was most sympathetic when I saw how people looked down on Kroc. There’s a big question here abou whether only great things can be achieved by unkind people. I never liked how he treated his wife and he was ruthless in destroying the McDonald brothers after clearly winning the day. No doubt in my mind the film showed him as an asshole, a complex man but an asshole nonetheless. 🙂 If you saw something else else – well that’s great. That’s the beauty of film viewing – it’s all subjective. Certainly my title struck a chord with some people who saw the film as part of what drives the views is all the google searches for Ray Kroc Asshole.

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