Checked out The Founder, the new Michael Keaton film about the early days (and the founding) of McDonalds in the 1950s. Specifically, Keaton plays Ray Crok, a man infamous for having basically stolen McDonalds from the actual McDonalds brothers.
Ray Crok is a travelling milk shake machine salesman who is fed up with bad drive-in restaurants – they are slow, they get your orders wrong, they are filthy, and there’s teenage hooligans lurking around. He visits the first McDonalds in California and is baffled by how fast the food comes, that there’s no drive-in service/car-hops, no place to sit, and no plates. But it’s fast and the food is good so he has a sit-down with the McDonalds brothers to figure out how they did it… and how he can get a piece of the action.
And he does buy-in and franchise in the mid-west. And that’s the interesting part of the movie – neither Crok nor the McDonalds brothers are wrong and, indeed, you can argue that Crok is doing all the right stuff. He’s promoting local business, working with men and women who are hungry to franchise and own their own small business, etc. The McDonalds brothers refuse to let him innovate or change anything as per their contract.
But then the movie takes a left turn and Crok, really abruptly, becomes a massive jerk and does, in fact, screw the McDonalds brothers out of their business. Keaton turns into such a horrible monster that its almost hard to watch him be as cruel as he becomes.
It’s an uneven movie (and the middle portion was kind of slow) but I kind of like it anyway. McDonalds may be a horrible corporate entity these days (not that I don’t love it) but the version they introduce in this movie was a fledgling example of the American dream. It’s an interesting take on the history… and it wasn’t a giant advertisement for McDonalds and it certainly wasn’t super favorable of their supposed founder. Good but uneven movie.