Back in 2014 Michael Keaton came back to film in a big way, creating an unforgettable character in what is an unforgettable masterpiece of a film in Birdman. When he lost the Best-Actor award to a much deserving Eddie Redmayne, which I thought he’d win, it made us wonder how Keaton would get back to that Oscar contention again. Thankfully, his run since then has been pretty stellar to say the least thanks to Spotlight which ended up taking home the gold for Best-Picture making it the second film Keaton has been a part of within only three years. Unfortunately, The Founder went unnoticed by audiences and Academy members alike this time around, but that doesn’t take away the effort brought into this astonishing true story about the genesis of the global fast food chain that is McDonald’s.
Keaton plays Ray Kroc, a smooth talking, unsatisfied salesman in the 1950’s, traveling the states to sell products of all types, but it’s when he gets a chance to sell his milkshake makers to a couple of friendly New Hampshire born brothers by the name of McDonald does he see, and manipulate the potential that be. John Carroll Lynch and an outstanding Nick Offerman play the tender, morally strong brothers that Kroc tries to take advantage of which leads to some of the most potent scenes of betrayal that only add to the treachery of what really happened. Biting at the toes and hands of the audience, the dialogue is purposeful, and about as sour as a lemon in some scenes.
Keaton proves to us again that there is power in range and there is a fine line between protagonist and antagonist of a story, and this film is no question about a pretty bad man whose selling out of two good people created a billion dollar franchise that would pollute the world globally in ways you may not have realized. To see the transformation of the company through John Lee Hancock’s directing is riveting, but can sometimes be a little dull in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, his eye for understanding what to show and what not too show between the characters makes for a stronger delivery of emotion as the story progresses.
Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, and Linda Cardelini make strong appearances that bolster the acts that happen between each character as Kroc commandeers an empire that was never meant to be, and that’s exactly what Kroc was, a pirate that had the smooth talking of Jack Sparrow, and the lack of empathy like a Blackbeard. Keaton just magnifies an already fascinating person in history by giving us that calmness that you’d get from his Bruce Wayne, but also the insanity of a Beetlejuice without ever being a cartoon or mockery of himself. It’s a character driven story that does a great job handling the treachery, the intellect, and the overall controversy of the man who stole the McDonald’s brand and company for his own selfish gain.