Written by: Robert Seigel
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch
Running Time: 115 minutes
The story of Ray Kroc, an ambitious and struggling salesman, who encounters the McDonald’s concept of speedy delivery in the 1950s and turns it into a global empire.
Kroc, the sneaky Kroc
When we first meet Ray Kroc, we feel bad for the poor sod, using a tired old pitch with customers, pushing door-to-door sales of milkshake makers.
After a purchase order of six mixers is placed at a McDonald’s on the west coast, Kroc drives cross-country based on intuition to check the establishment out.
It’s here that he meets Dick and Mac McDonald, witnesses the efficiently designed speedy system for delivering meals in paper bags in under 30 seconds [a novelty at the time], and hears the story of McDonald’s from the brothers at dinner.
He goes on to become a successful head franchisee, and eventually, buys McDonald’s from the brothers and steals their story in a manner that is both shocking and shrewd.
Love McDonald’s, Hate McDonald’s
Anyone who watches this film can tell it’s a biased depiction, but it’s a bias that makes for a compelling angle.
Who doesn’t want to smirk at the founder of McDonald’s?
Ripe with cynicism, Seigel keeps us firmly in our seats by underplaying the drama, while maintaining a steady pace.
What’s most interesting is Kroc’s character treatment. At the beginning of the film, it’s hard to see him as a conniving businessman, since he’s more of a joke.
He’s highlighted as a thieving fake, who stumbles upon ideas from third parties: The McDonald’s speedy system, the golden arches he hails as his own ingenious idea, his flirtation with Joan, a rich businessman’s wife and eventually, the McDonald’s name.
This hollowed-out interpretation is done brilliantly, as little time is spent awarding credit to Kroc.
Almost prophetic in nature, the crook comes completely into view with one real and metaphorical battle regarding milkshakes.
Kroc wants to sell milk-less milkshakes to turn a higher profit and decrease storage at McDonald’s. The brothers, in favor of using old-fashioned nutritious milk and ice cream, are shocked at the suggestion of selling powdered water substitutes.
As Kroc overplays his hand, it has the desired effect on the audience: Blood curdles.
Hancock keeps the narrative focused and brings the best out of the best. The real sell of this film is its ability to evoke emotion while using minimal fluff.
Michael Keaton, from start to finish, is extraordinary. He plays a tricky role with finesse and depth. The final scene where he rehearses a speech in front of the mirror about how he ‘founded’ McDonald’s is bone-chilling.
Nick Offerman is notable as Dick McDonald, brimming with integrity and pride, while John Carroll Lynch as the enthusiastic and trusting brother Mac puts in a good shift.
B.J. Novak, with the short matter-of-fact role of Harry Sonneborn, leaves a hefty impression.
All in All
An entertaining and sharp biographical film, looking at the beginning of the billion-dollar Mac empire, with a mocking title, cheek-in-tongue stabs and a strange unattached coolness. Michael Keaton is invincible as Ray Kroc. Put this one under ‘must-watch.’
Watch it if you: are a fan of McDonald’s or live in the 21st century.