Meet Ray Kroc, a businessman who we see selling milkshakes that he gives a very impressive and thorough speech about, so much so that if these milkshakes were, say, 30 dollars (in today's currency value, of course; not in 1954 when this movie first starts out) I'd buy one or two from him. But he's living in a world that basically screams minimum wage, but surprise surprise! He then gets an order for six milkshakes from a restaurant in San Francisco, and when he calls to say there must be a mistake, the manager named Dick agrees and asks for an extra two on the order. Dumbfounded, Ray hesitantly drives out there to see a restaurant that serves him food faster and more delicious than any in his life. The thing is, it's a family business run by Mac and Dick McDonald, who tell Ray about how they begun their store and a tradition for getting out of your car and waiting in line, how they took gambles at every turn (this is all in a sequence that's actually very long and yet inspiring and fun to watch over again, with great business tips like how everybody's got to eat) and Ray wants a bite of the action, because this is something he found on his own and something he really sees the value of. Thing is, if he gets the rights, will he be able to help himself and stay in bounds? Will he want to?
Like The Social Network, this movie does something that filmmakers rarely get right: have an argument, and let the audience decide who's in the right. Both sides have visible sides: This was Mac and Dick's original creation, and just like me in my writing, they don't take kindly to change in their craft at the hands of someone else. Whereas Ray Kroc is clearly a man with dreams and desire who has had the door slammed in his face too many times to be able to stand minuscule profits when he now has his grip on the train. I mean, there are few moments more infuriating than doing your hardest work and getting spat on for doing so.
Of course, that doesn't mean hanging up on your boss is the right thing to do. I'm not going to play games and say the characters are equally likeable. Kroc is the more unlikeable one, and while that becomes kind of obvious from the get go, I was never bored from the predictability because I usually like or at least am interested in stories that are leading to a cliff the character will have to trip down eventually, and as the stakes get higher and higher in this film, I couldn't wait.
And you know how these days, McDonald's is recognized for minimum wage and having Chicken McNuggets made out of anything but chicken? The movie doesn't flat out say this, but it talks about a situation that I don't know if it's non-fiction or not, but a situation involving, well, food and money, and it's a situation that I'm sure will be a scene people remember when they think of this movie. It made me think: If I were these characters, what would I do? In fact, out of curiosity, after I finished watching The Founder I looked up the value of 15 cents in 1954. It's $1.53 in today's currency, which leads to financial troubles I'm sure most adult viewers will connect with.
The movie also teaches some lessons, and yes, there's only so many messages you can watch in movies until it seems like every one is a perverted school that's trying to earn extra money by showing the kids the message. But the messages here don't feel tired. Basically, the first message is that you don't have to stick to one job, like being a salesman. If it's not working, pick something else. No one in the world is only limited to one job forever. The other message is that sometimes making less money is better than making more, because making more money can make you miserable, and this happens to both sides, in different ways. And the other is to know what you're getting into in business and only pick the choices you feel are 100% right. I never thought I would get this sort of material out of a movie about McDonald's, but there was a 2004 documentary called "Supersize Me" with McDonalds in an inversely infamous spotlight that had me in full attention too.
Sometimes, the arguments end up a little repetitive, and I felt there was an extra layer to the story that got cut out before the movie could end properly, which impacted the film quite a bit since I'm a lover of movie endings. But thanks to the terrific arguments and fast pace, this is a nice little biography about the biggest food chain in the world, which is, like The Social Network, one of sadness, lies and juvenile business.