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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Founder tells the fascinating history of how fast-food chain McDonald's began -- and became a global brand. Expect many intense conversations/confrontations among stakeholders; some of them end up in loud, menacing arguments. There's some swearing (including a use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "hell," and more) and social drinking by adults. A man and woman who are each married to others flirt with each other, and he eventually seduces her off screen. While main character Ray Krock (Michael Keaton) certainly isn't warm and fuzzy, he does show that determination, perseverance, and hard work can pay off.
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What's the story?
In THE FOUNDER, there's nothing under the sun that Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) hasn't tried to sell. An Illinois salesman who's constantly on the road, Kroc has tried peddling all sorts of products -- but it's while he's selling milkshake machines that he stumbles upon McDonald's, a successful, freestanding eatery in California. Owned by two brothers (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman), the restaurant offers a pared-down menu of burgers and fries and has distilled the food-prep process to the exact minute, the exact steps. Immediately, Kroc is enamored, and he becomes bent on selling McDonald brothers (and others) on franchising the concept throughout the country. But Kroc and the McDonalds have little in common except for their love for the restaurant: The brothers want to keep things small, pure, and manageable, while Kroc, though a believer in quality control, wants to preach the gospel of fast food, enormous profits, and world domination. In other words? This is not a love story. Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, and Linda Cardellini co-star as Kroc's wife, a franchiser, and an unexpected muse.
Is it any good?
Tense, entertaining, and nostalgic yet decidedly modern, this drama is a feast of filmmaking. The Founder pairs brilliant acting with great storytelling to create a movie that, despite its long run time, moves like an energetic athlete. In short, it's a delight. But it's also frightening in a way, offering a study in how vision can build kingdoms -- but also destroy others' dreams and lives, as well as, in some touching ways, the visionary himself. Still, if there's one character Keaton can portray with might, it's a driven, passionate, bombastic, and sometimes-terrifying man like Kroc. He's admirable but also alienating, a character very relevant for these modern times.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Ray is depicted in The Founder. Is he meant to be sympathetic or off-putting? Are his personality traits assets or liabilities?
Is it possible to tell the story of a well-known brand/company without seeming to promote it? Is The Founder successful at this?
How would you describe McDonald's role/place in American society? How has that role changed over the years? What challenges has the company faced?
- In theaters: January 20, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: April 18, 2017
- Cast: Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch
- Director: John Lee Hancock
- Studio: The Weinstein Company
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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