"The Founder" is possibly the movie most about America I have ever seen.
For one, it's about the creation and rise of McDonald's, which is arguably the "most American" institution this country has given the world. Michael Keaton's Ray Kroc even gives a speech saying that the golden arches should rise to join the church steeple cross and the city hall tower as the iconic spires of American towns. (It's also a movie that mostly takes place in suburbs, highways, and small towns - neither big city downtowns nor rural landscapes feature much in the movie.)
But this "biographical drama" is much more layered than that. It's full of ambiguities and nuances that hit closer to our history than cynical speeches.
The movie follows Ray Kroc, and it shows him as a desperate failure, trying to convince drive-in restaurants to embrace automation, and failing badly. We have sympathy for him (especially as we see how long he has to wait for his food when he does order.) But he's not Willie Lowman who has to do this because otherwise his family will starve - we see he has enough money for a comfortable lifestyle already. He's just too ambitious, he wants more and isn't ashamed that he'll never be satisfied with simply any finite ceiling.
We then meet the hapless McDonald's brothers, who have turned their San Bernadino restaurant into a wonder of efficiency. The idea of 15 cent burgers given to you hot and fresh 30 seconds after you ordered them is portrayed as a miracle.
... one view over the course of the film is to see this restaurant design as genius gee-whiz inventiveness, while Kroc's future mass-production franchising of the design as soul-killing mechanization. But they're both part and parcel of the same arrow - the McDonalds turned food into the "legible" nightmare of "Seeing Like a State", and Kroc brought it to its ultimate fruition. The McDonalds were already, even if only in one restaurant, making chefs into employees who do nothing but flip burgers and serving only 3 menu items because that's what 85% of people order anyway, and killing any variety because that would introduce inefficiency.
One of the all-American points that the characters bring up here, is that drive-thru dine-ins had adult employees serving teenagers who loitered around, and how distasteful that was to them. Whereas the fast-food innovation returns us to the "proper" hierarchy of teenagers serving adults.
At the other end of the movie, there's a nice bit of ethnic-cultural commentary too. One of the original brothers asks Kroc why he didn't just copy the idea and mass produce it without them. And Ray going on an elegiac tear about how "McDonalds" is such a wholesome, all-American name whereas who would want to eat at a place called "Kroc's"?
Keaton is fascinating as the uber-ambitious, class-ambivalent, charming-like-a-wolf Ray Kroc. He is early on drawn to the world of the rich because they can buy his franchises and finance his restaurant. But his pure drive for efficient food production is so incorruptible that he turns on his rich golf friends because they sell fried chicken and biscuits at their restaurants, and do not personally sweep up the trash in front of restaurants when it gets out of hand (which Kroc does.) The best scene in the movie is him angrily yelling on the golf course about a badly done burger (in his hand.) We love his demonic singular drive then.
But the point is that the idle rich can not grow American's dream. Ray then goes looking for the rising middle class, to find men-and-wives with ambition to run a restaurant to the exact specifications he demands. He goes to VFW halls (this is in the 50's, when the age there is much younger) instead of country clubs. He hires Jewish Bible salesmen because they must be really driven. He's all about breaking traditional barriers to exalt the virtues of the middle class - conformity, hard-working, cleanliness. (And at the same time he falls out of love with his socialite wife, for a woman who has as much mercenary passion for business and mass production as him.)
But the things that we love him for, become the things that we hate him for in the second half. The initial inspiration for the McDonalds design, and the iron clad contract guaranteeing no deviation from that design, hold him back as the world presents new ideas for how to make restaurants even faster, more efficient, and cheaper. But the perfectionism of the original owners denies the changes he wants.
So Ray graduates to legal and financial chicanery, to steal the business out from under the hapless original founders. It is, indeed, very American that way. And we wouldn't even fault Ray for wanting to launch his brand independent of them, except for him being so egotistical that he can't just buy them off, he has to claim every idea of theirs as his own. He steals their name, he declares himself the Founder and his first franchised copy as "restaurant number one", and drives them out of business by setting up a McD's across the street from them. Can't have a real story of America without a Big Steal.