The title of this biopic is a misnomer, one brilliantly crafted and promoted by Ray Kroc (played by Michael Keaton). Kroc was not the founder of McDonalds, the billion-dollar food empire that revolutionized free enterprise. That honor belongs to Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman), two brothers who were determined to keep their inexpensive fast-food restaurant a small, local operation in San Bernadino, California.
But the two brothers were no match for the ambitious, fast-talking, traveling salesman who saw the franchise potential of their innovative concept. At age 52, Ray Kroc needed and craved a get-rich-quick scheme that would end his days on the road and nights in seedy motels.
Slowly but steadily, Kroc manipulated and connived his way into the lives and finances of the McDonald brothers. I was fascinated–and often repelled–by Kroc’s relentless search for more effective branding and cost reduction strategies. Nothing was off limits from powdered milk shakes to frozen French fries to nefarious real estate deals. After driving Dick McDonald into a stress-induced diabetes attack, Kroc visited him at the hospital and offered to buy him out. In the end, the two brothers could not even use their own name in the original restaurant they founded.
Kroc’s ruthlessness extended into his personal life. I was shocked by how callously he asked his wife Ethel (Laura Dern) for a divorce and how determined he was not to share any of the McDonalds bounty with her.
A thought-provoking movie about an anti-hero, who lived and promoted his version of the American Dream: If you want something, go out and take it–even if it belongs to someone else.