The Founder :: What a Kroc … The Story of Capitalism…

Cineville - The Founder

I enjoyed The Founder. I found it depressing, but enjoyable in the telling.

It's the story of McDonald's, which I knew quite a lot about at one point but much of it had fallen out of my brain. Many years ago I read and was hugely moved by Fast Food Nation. Now all I clearly remember is that THERE IS SHIT IN THE MEAT.

Oh, and I remember crying at a bus stop somewhere in London whilst reading about some guy who lost a hand in the abattoir or some such and was totally fucked over and ultimately destroyed by McDonald's. Or something.

In the film, we see enough of Ray Kroc (played by Michael Keaton) before he's ever heard of McDonald's to begin to almost quite like him. Or at least to feel sorry for him. And to root for him a little.

Pre-McDonald's Kroc is a down-on-his-luck salesman back in the low-tech, practically-no-tech days of call boxes and maps. But he's determined. He listens to an early self-help record called The Power of the Positive and he devotes his life to persistence. Persistence and determination, he is told, and wholeheartedly believes, are all-powerful.

At the cinema he watches On the Waterfront. We are not shown it, but of course it's because of that scene. I coulda been a contender, instead of a bum, which is what I am. Ray ain't gonna be no bum, no matter what it takes.

Ray Kroc is a crass man and although he's not the brightest bun in the burger bar, he's almost certainly the pushiest and the most aggressive. His life is a symphony of rapaciousness and ultimately, his story is the story of Capitalism. Success isn't enough. Making a living isn't enough. "Probably never," he replies when his first wife asks him, "When's enough gonna be enough for you?" And in pursuit of ever greater profit, standards are swept aside and people are pissed on.

Cineville - The Founder

At one point, Kroc says to one of the relatively meek McDonald brothers, "If my competitor was drowning, I'd go over and put a hose right in his mouth. Could you say the same?" Of course they could not. And nor would they want to. As it happens, Kroc is not required to kill in order to vanquish the competition - at least as far as we are aware. Instead he merely cheats, lies and steals. Then, ultimately, he wins.

But does he really win?

Well, yes, in actual fact, karma permitting, he does. He definitely does.

The Founder is really very depressing, ultimately. But it's an important story, and it's told well, with good performances.

It could have been a little sharper in the script though, if I'm being picky. And the wives could have been a little better drawn, especially Kroc's third wife, Joan Smith, whose story is particularly interesting.

After Ray's death in 1984, Joan Kroc went on a 20-year, mostly philanthropic spending spree and did many, many beautiful things, which are actually the only visible light at the end of a long, dark, nasty tunnel.


Cineville - The Founder


The Viewing

This was my first film of 2017. Hopefully the first of 300, although that's probably a little overly ambitious. Especially considering such a very slow start.

I haven't been much in the past week or so because:

a) I've had seasonal guests
b) I've been working damn hard getting my websites up and running because finally something I really want hinges on making money (my life in Amsterdam)
c) I've been ill and it's not fair to take a hacking cough into a confined public place
d) It has been intensely cold
e) There's nothing on I haven't already seen

There's a definite post-holiday, January lull that nothing, including cinema, can escape. 

Not to worry.

Spring soon. 

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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