I often go to McDonald's, especially with my daughter, it's not much a product of the world's mass-market globalization but the way globalization has influenced our lives and standardized the approach to fast-food, people need to eat quick and well, and restaurants are kept for birthdays of Valentine's dates, job meetings or anniversary celebrations.
It was during summer 1993 when the first McDonald's restaurant opened in Morocco, in Casablanca on the seaside. For a kid my age, it felt like going to Disney World (quite an omen knowing that a few months after, I would visit the actual place). I remember it as if it was yesterday, everything looked clean and impeccable, the hamburgers on the pictures were shiny and the names resonated like something that would come off the TV set. Then, I had my first bite on the cheeseburger, it felt like having a 'taste of America'... and it didn't taste bad.
The rest is history, one couldn't count how many 'Golden Arches' are in every big city of Morocco, many kids were born with it and didn't have the privilege to taste that crispy apple pie whose cream would burn your tongue if you didn't wait long enough (I guess that's why the dessert was removed); for these children anyway, McDonalds' (which we call "McDo" like the French do) is part of their everyday life, anything but something to feel privileged about. "McDo" became part of the urban landscape and not just in countries with churches and American flags, but before going global, it had to prove its worth locally, and boy, did it deliver!
I'm not praising the place as much as I praise the concept, one that proved to be in symbiosis with modern societies' expectations, to the point that the mark of modernity in an emerging country can be measured by the number of international franchises it got, McDonald's being generally among those that started them all. And I can't believe my grandmother was refused to open a McDonald's franchise back in 1981, the local bureaucracy couldn't share her visionary flair... something that echoed the journey of Ray Kroc, the titular "Founder" in John Lee Hancock's underrated biopic.
First of all, what strikes in Ray's name is his lack of fame compared to the empire he built, we all expect McDonald's to be the creation of a guy named likewise who envisioned the fast-food chain like Bugsy did with Las Vegas or Zuckerberg Facebook, a man of guts and vision... and yet whoever made McDonald's possible wasn't meant to be praised like Steve Jobs would be, not because he didn't deserve it but because McDonald's is the result of a long process that preceded him, one that involved many protagonists until he gave that little boost it needed to definitely take off, a business masterstroke that might have looked great on the paper yet not enough to convince movie producers.
It starts when the Great Depression convinced the two brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald to invest in food business because hey, "people gotta eat", and then they decided to have their little trademark: the Speedee-System, why bother with dishes, with fancy plates when 90% of the food goes into burgers, fries and sodas, they didn't invent the wheel, they just applied Ford theories in food business, but there's nothing like an idea "coming from nowhere". Anyway, we get through an exhilarating ten-minute sequence where it's both about the content than the form. I loved the way the two brothers Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carrol Lynch) kept switching the lines like a story they've been telling countless times and you can see it from the listener how spellbinding it is.
In fact, Kroc only came because they were one of the umpteenth clients he visited to sell some ice-cram multi-mixer but when Kroc learned about McDonald's, it was obvious they couldn't keep the concept for themselves. He convinces them to start making franchises and progressively, the man becomes the third parent to McDonald's... until he gets full custody, literally. I didn't expect much and I got a taste of what made the concept successful, more than any documentary, analytics would leave anyone cold, but the film treats its subject like a great story.
The film doesn't glorify the brand, nor the name but the persistence that drove a man who didn't have the original idea, who didn't have an exceptional talent, but who could spot a good idea and talents when they hit him and didn't miss the opportunity. The film is straightforward and linear but is remarkably effective ... and Michael Keaton is just so good, I kept wondering where the hell was that film during the Oscar talks, I know it's not "progressive" to praise business values, nor that the film handles any timely subjects, but it's culturally significant and smart in a punchy way.
At first sight, it's your typical business-driven success stories with a few dilemmas that force the protagonist to cut a few corners but the dynamics are good, the interactions with the brothers full of subtle comedy, and Michael Keaton is just the perfect actor for such roles. There are a few clichéd moments (Laura Dern has the thankless role as the abandoned wife) and the film works better when it gets to business. Even the title is provocative because one of the first 'a-ha' moments you get in the beginning is that Kroc didn't create McDonalds. Still, at the end, and that's why the film works, we accept him as the Founder, who bought an idea so big the creators (relegated as passive observers all through the film) couldn't handle it... it's one thing to create, but it's another to build the foundations of durability of that creation.
Some would compare the film to Fincher's "Social Network" and they'd be right, I wish the comparison could have extended to the Oscar reception.
3 out of 3 found this helpful