“The Founder” offers Michael Keaton a juicy role to bite into

I will never fully understand the thinking behind this movie’s long review embargo. The Founder began screening more than a month ago, but until this week, when it hits theaters, the film has been somewhat under lock and key. It’s a shame too, since with the right backing, this could have been more of a player, notably for Michael Keaton in the Best Actor race. Alas, now it’s a longer shot, though we’ll discuss that later. For now, just know that this is a solid flick, one that deserved a better fate than it has so far received. Perhaps audiences will rescue it?

The film is a biopic of sorts, centered on Ray Kroc (Keaton), the man who would come to be known as “the founder” of fast food chain McDonald’s. Initially a traveling milkshake machine salesman, Kroc is struggling until he gets a larger than expected order from Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch), the McDonald brothers. Operating a revolutionary new style of burger joint, the brothers are making a killing, one Kroc becomes determined to worm his way into. Eventually, he convinces them to franchise, with him at the forefront of new development. Slowly but surely, he evolves into a cutthroat businessman, alienating his wife Ethel (Laura Dern) in the process. John Lee Hancock directs, while Robert Siegel contributes the script. Also in the cast are the likes of Linda Cardellini, B.J. Novak, Patrick Wilson, Justin Randell Brooke, and Kate Kneeland, among others. Carter Burwell handles the score, while cinematography is by John Schwartzman.

Keaton is the main highlight here, though the actual McDonald brothers are fascinating characters. Keaton captures your attention immediately, playing what essentially turns into a villain. He humanizes Kroc, never excusing his actions, but showing how he ever so slowly developed into someone with darker ambitions. At the start, you underestimate him, just like everyone else who encounters him. It’s a complex performance, though one that never forgets that it should also be a fun one as well. This isn’t quite on the level of Keaton’s award worthy work in Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), but it’s not far off either. The Academy is missing the boat if they ignore him, but that’s another story…one we’ll actually be discussing next.

1480047707230Awards wise, The Founder is likely DOA, but had it gotten the proper head start, it could have been a contender. Oscar is usually ready to eat something like this up. In another world, it’s heavily in play for nominations in Best Picture, Best Director (for Hancock), Best Actor (for Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (for Lynch and Offerman), Best Supporting Actress (for Dern), Best Original Screenplay (for Siegel), Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score. Now, barring a surprise, it’s only really in play for a surprise Actor nomination. Keaton isn’t totally out of the running, but he’d be a bit of a shock if he slipped in. Stay tuned to see what happens there for him, I suppose.

Overall, this Friday finally brings The Founder to screens. It is a shame that it’s hitting theaters without proper buzz and after having essentially been held out of the awards season. Honestly, the powers that be probably should have just kept it out entirely and made it a true 2017 release, shooting for awards love at the next Academy Awards. That’s not what happened though, so it is what it is. Just know that the film is good and well worth seeing. We could easily see audiences treat it better than anyone else so far. Give it a shot and see what you think of it…

Be sure to check out The Founder, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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