With over 36,000 locations worldwide, it’s about time we find out how the global burger chain McDonald’s came to be. Directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side) and starring Michael Keaton, The Founder tells the story of humble beginnings and not-so-humble business decisions. Here are five things to know about the feature film before it hits theaters nationwide on January 20. Warning: There are some spoilers ahead.
1. It is not a feel-good story.
Viewers may be surprised to find out that the world’s biggest burger chain was founded on deceit. In what feels like The Social Network meets The Wolf of Wall Street, the film follows Kroc as he takes the McDonald’s name right out from under Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick McDonald’s (Nick Offerman) noses.
2. Operating a burger stand is like directing a ballet.
The film goes into almost every nook and cranny of the well-oiled machine that is the first McDonald’s. Chalk, rehearsal, lazy Susans and a basketball court are involved.
3. You will love to hate Michael Keaton’s character.
With the spirit and tenacity of Beetlejuice (a previous role of Keaton’s), Keaton develops into a conniving, ruthless conqueror who apparently has poor phone etiquette. You will feel sorry for the struggling milkshake-machine salesman, but you will also resent the devious wolf in the henhouse later on.
4. It’s not about the burger.
It’s stated right in the trailer: Ray Kroc wasn’t in the burger business, but the real estate business. Burgers, fries and milkshakes grace the screen for about an eighth of the film. The film won’t make you yearn for a Big Mac.
5. Linda Cardellini and Keaton carry a decent tune.
Cardellini plays Joan Smith, the wife of a franchisee and Kroc’s third wife, and is introduced in front of the keys of a piano. After requesting “Pennies From Heaven,” Kroc joins Smith at the piano to sing the 1936 song.