Friday, January 20, 2017

THE FOUNDER Movie Review

THE FOUNDER movie stars Michael Keaton and Laura Dern, along with Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, Patrick Wilson, BJ Novak, and Linda Cardellini. It’s not Birdman, but there are moments just as fascinating. Keaton plays Ray Kroc, “the founder” who wasn’t really…he was a shake machine salesman, down on his luck. A kind of Willy Loman with huge dreams and little success, shown with sympathy by both director and actor at the opening as he tries and fails again and again, despite listening to an inspirational sales recording on a record player in his hotel rooms on the road. When he sees the McDonald brothers’ restaurant, he is skeptical until it gives him an expansion idea, and then more inspiration than any speech ever could. His ultimate goal isn’t realized by the brothers until near the end, and that is to wrest the company from them, using their formula, and make a killing with it. He’s a typical narcissist, and like Donald Trump, seizes on advantage with an eye for the long term. Accordingly, as also told in more depth in the audiobook RAY & JOAN, he sets his sights on franchises, and his first CEO’s idea that he can only oust the brothers by focusing on real estate, with the line, “You’re not in the hamburger business, Ray, you’re in the real estate business.” So Kroc becomes a real estate tycoon, leasing property to franchises and thereby controlling them. This includes the brothers, who are cheated out of hundreds of millions by a handshake deal for 1% that they couldn’t prove happened. The key to Kroc’s success, as related with always believable tone and nuance by Keaton, is persistence. Never giving up the quest. There was also a huge luck factor, as has been shown in the cases of other titans, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Being at the right place at the right time was vital. Add the right product, a revolutionary idea, and you have what McDonalds has become: the most successful restaurant in history. Is bigger better, though? A key quote is the question asked by Kroc in the film to one of the brothers: “If my competitor was drowning, I’d walk over with a hose and spray him in the mouth. Would you?” McDonald responds, “No, I wouldn’t do that.” And Kroc’s response, “That’s why you’re in one location and I’m nationwide.” The McDonalds are later forced to remove the name from their one store, as Kroc then owned rights to their name. Ironic? Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank would sing along to that tune, and Trump is known to eat at McDonalds, as is Warren Buffett, who owns part of Coke. Amazingly, all were relentless in business during their climb to the top, only to give a major portion of their fortunes to charity after retirement, when they realized they are mortals after all. (In the case of Kroc, his wife was generous…not his first wife but a franchiser's wife, whose husband signed up only because Ray was in love with her. Gates’ wife changed Bill in another way.) Interesting. A must watch, and must hear. Regarding the audiobook, Lisa Napoli is a journalist whose last staff job was on the public radio show Marketplace. An early chronicler of the dawn of the World Wide Web as a columnist at the New York Times CyberTimes, she has also been the Internet correspondent at MSNBC. She began her career at CNN, worked in local news in North Carolina, and has directed several documentaries about Southern culture. Her book sets the record straight on Ray & Joan, including some things the film's screenwriter got wrong. 

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