The saddest thing to come from the 87th Academy Awards was the footage that started circulating online of Oscar hopeful Michael Keaton, up for the award of Best Actor for Birdman, stuffing an acceptance speech back into his pocket moments after realizing The Theory of Everything star Eddie Redmayne was the evening's winner.
After joining another Best Picture-winning team with last year's Spotlight, Keaton is putting it all on the line once again, standing front and centre and going for Oscar gold with The Founder, a low-budget biographical drama about the man who turned the McDonald brothers' burger stand into a household name (whether they liked it or not).
Over the past two years, Keaton has reminded viewers what a dominant, bullish presence he can be on screen when given the chance, and John Lee Hancock gives him free rein in The Founder as Ray Kroc, an aggressive salesman who finally strikes it big when he comes across the McDonald brothers (played by Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman and The Drew Carey Show's John Carroll Lynch), a pair of entrepreneurs revolutionizing the food industry with speedy service and fresh food at a fraction of the cost in San Bernardino, CA.
After years of personal failures, Kroc takes one last risk and does whatever it takes to turn their experiment — what with its limited menu and lack of servers — into a franchise and national powerhouse. Greed ends up consuming him.
Fans of Fast Food Nation may be surprised to find that The Founder doesn't exactly place the nascence of one of the world's most vilified corporations in an entirely negative light. On the contrary: It makes note of its wholesome beginnings (scenes of smiling customers, patiently lining up to place their orders seem like something straight out of a Twilight Zone episode compared to the reality found in today's restaurants).
But then, maybe that just goes to show the strength of Robert D. Siegel's subtle script and Hancock's steady direction. Watching Offerman and Carroll Lynch joyfully describe how they convinced their customers to adopt disposable cutlery and packaging over reusable plates and utensils, for example, is one of many moments throughout the movie highlighting how blind the American consumer can be.
Full of subtle commentary that comes from showing rather than saying, The Founder is powerful without being preachy and fascinating despite a lack of frills. (Elevation Pictures)