I have read the book “McDonald’s – Behind the Arches” and I still liked this movie even though it covers only a part of it – or if I may say, just scratches the surface of it. Definitely watchable – especially if you haven’t read the book.
The story is not about the founders of McDonald’s (although it talks about it as well) but the person who made it a fast food monster it is today – Ray Kroc. Shot in the backdrop of 1950s USA when the fast food wasn’t so fast, Ray Kroc witnesses a revolution in a restaurant called “McDonald’s” in San Bernardino where two brothers, Dick McDonald and Mac McDonald (original brothers were Richard McDonald and Maurice McDonald), are spinning out a burger, a drink, and french fries in just 30 seconds. Awestruck by the speed, the salesman inside Ray Kroc instantly identifies the opportunity to go grand with the concept which has the potential to change the food service business forever – franchise. Being a salesman, he very well knew how to convince the brothers. The rest, as they say, is history. The story depicts the persistence of Ray Kroc and his ruthless attitude to do everything it took to realize his dream, even sideline the original inventors of the concept. The writer even went one step ahead to show that, even outside his business, Ray does whatever it takes to get what he wants. As the story progresses, you realize you start feeling for Dick and Mac and develop an awkward appreciation for Ray Kroc and that’s where, perhaps, the story scores. While the story spends a little time on showing what goes behind the cash counters at McDonald’s, it focused on other things – the franchise model, the real business of McDonald’s – real estate, personal life of Ray Kroc, and cost of not thinking big (which McDonald brothers paid). When compared to the book, the story left out many things like the McDonald’s University, the quality control process and how they revolutionized the sourcing. However, that wouldn’t really fit into the script, perhaps.
Michael Keaton, playing Ray Kroc, essentially took the movie on his shoulders and did a great job. His understanding of the character and the nitty-gritty is great. The expressions, dialog delivery, and the depiction of passion (or if I may say “raw insanity”) for making McDonald’s gigantic are simply brilliant. To be honest, it felt like the rest of the cast was ignored to build any strong presence in the movie. Nick Offerman, playing a “tough-outside-timid-inside” Dick McDonald and John Caroll Lynch, playing a “good-guy” Mac McDonald, did a good job but they hardly had a chance to show any kind of variety. Laura Dern, playing his wife, is good too. The rest of the cast just revolved around Michael Keaton.
Identifying what’s relevant and what’s not is very tough in a biopic and the director, John Lee Hancock, did a good job of it. What I loved about the movie was the amount of research done on building Ray Kroc’s character. At the same time, I guess that’s what went wrong as well since it essentially came at the cost of the rest of the characters. The overall flow of the movie is quite smooth, so it doesn’t lose audience’s attention even for a second. The climax was shot very well – especially the conversation between Dick McDonald and Ray Kroc is something to watch out for.
Overall, it’s a good movie to watch if you want a glimpse of what made McDonald’s. It wouldn’t give you many technical details into McDonald’s per se, but definitely watchable. Not a memorable movie but good enough.