Hot Take: Michael Keaton keeps turns out one great performance after another. How’d the Academy miss this one?
The only conclusion I can draw from Michael Keaton not being nominated for Best Actor this year is that between Birdman, Spotlight and The Founder, The Founder is probably his weakest performance. Since it came third, the Academy might have suffered fatigue and ignored his excellent performance as Ray Kroc in the story of how McDonald’s became McDonald’s.
Keaton’s performance infuses a fascinating story of how Kroc capitalized on a concept he stumbled across while selling milkshake mixers and turned it into the largest franchises in the United States. In addition to Keaton, there is a solid supporting cast including Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch who play Dick and Mac McDonald, the brothers who founded the original McDonald’s concept. Laura Dern, B.J. Novak, Patrick Wilson and Linda Cardellini are also solid in their roles.
The one challenge with The Founder is there seems to be more to the story than what unfolds on screen. It’s almost as if the quick service concept came to the biopic. It’s not a complete knock because Keaton’s performance is so engaging and Kroc’s behavior so polarizing, you spend a lot of the movie trying to decide whether he’s a good guy or bad guy. The confusion is probably created by Keaton rather than Kroc because if you look at the details of it all, the cons outweigh the pros when analyzing Kroc’s qualities but Keaton is so darn likable in the role, it’s hard to hate him.
There’s plenty to like in The Founder. It might be slight in some areas but McDonald’s was a brand built on efficiency so there’s no reason the biopic about the man who took it from one coast to another shouldn’t be efficient, too. The ambiguity of the film’s message is one that adds a layer and makes the film have a few talking points afterward. Depending on how you look at the film, it could be seen as a story of what grows when the seeds of ambition are planted but it also could be an indictment of the potential greed that stems from those ambitious intentions.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Was Kroc a Crock?
Based on the telling, it’s a question you might ask yourself. Even in it’s standard biopic style of telling the story, The Founder is ambiguous enough in its telling that you don’t know if the film is celebrating Kroc’s story or making light of his “step on anyone to get to the top” behavior.
- The Concept
The film visualizes how the concept of McDonald’s came to be. When it is laid out on the screen, you realize how genius the concept is.
There’s not a lot of hype around Keaton’s performances but they continue to shine. It’s a shame his name can’t carry a film to ultimate success because he rarely disappoints.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- There’s Something Missing
At some point, it feels like The Founder loses its direction. Maybe it didn’t know how to wrap up the story but there’s a gap. It feels like there’s more to see but the way the film hastily wraps up, it leaves you hungry for the full story.