I'm actually quite surprised that John Hancock's "The Founder" hasn't had any kind of traction this holiday season. It's a well-done and gripping portrait of the greed the seeps through the cracks in this country. Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) plays the titular "founder," more of a schemer that found his way to stealing the labor of love built by the McDonald brothers in San Bernandino, California. They didn't want to franchise due to keeping their integrity intact and that, well, quality control when you franchise fast food is almost impossible. Kroc didn't listen to them, although he convinced them to have him open up another McD's location in a small Illinois town, he expanded. 19 States. Then he decided to replace ice cream-based milkshakes with powdered milkshakes, which got the brothers fuming and then he decided to real-estate McDonald's locations and the rest is, as they say, history.
Keaton deserves all the awards love for his portrayal of Kroc. He's been having quite the comeback lately, but this performance, just like the film itself, has been ignored by most, if not, all end-of-season awards. It's career-best work for Mr. Keaton. Yes, Hancock's film follow a familiar trajectory, but the story itself is fascinating nonetheless. There is plenty of stinging cynicism is Robert Spiegel's (Big Fan, The Wrestler) screenplay, the satirical aspects of the script are not far off from the times we live in today. The American dream, although a beautiful and resonant idea for the values of this country, can produce toxicity of the highest levels as seen here. If anything, I'd say the weak spot of the film is Hancock's direction, which just lies there and doesn't really do much in the way of augmenting the fascinating story at hand, but maybe that's what the film needed, a by-the-books, just-tell-the-story kind of approach.
So with all that being said, why has this film, but, more importantly, Keaton's performance, not gained any traction during awards season? Well, firstly, they didn't screen the damn thing for press here (Boston) until this week. How do you build buzz if no critic sees it. They only limited screenings of it to the major critics group members, but that's not enough to build buzz. At the moment Keaton is on the outside lookin' in for a possible Oscar nom, but he is well-loved and if enough industry people catch the film they will vote for him. I know it. His performance is better than most of the would-be contenders in the category.