Review: 'The Founder' is an Americana delight

Posted Friday, April 21, 2017 at 2:45 PM Central
Last updated Friday, April 21, 2017 at 2:46 PM Central

by John Couture

McDonald's restaurants are as ubiquitous in America as baseball and apple pie, but the story of its rise to fast food dominance is one that has been largely ignored by popular media. This is most likely due to the less than savory circumstances surrounding the proliferation of the most successful fast food chain in the world.

Finally, The Founder pulls back the curtains and reveals the story - warts and all - about Ray Kroc, the man most responsible for McDonald's success as anyone not named McDonald. Everyone knows about Henry Ford's reliance on the assembly line to position Ford to be a heavyweight in the automobile industry and how Apple was born in a garage, but nearly no one knows the story of McDonald's - until now.

I was somewhat familiar with Ray Kroc's story. By that, I mean that I knew he was the one responsible for its massive success, but that he wasn't a McDonald, but beyond that, I came into the film rather clean and it was refreshing to see a story without knowing exactly what had happened.

When it comes to Ray Kroc, I don't think you could have found anyone else better suited to play the man than Michael Keaton. His performance was electric and many thought that he should have gotten another Oscar nomination for it. You had to figure that The Weinstein Company, long known for cherry-picking awards contenders, were banking on it. When the nomination did not come through, the film seemed to slink away from the limelight.

That got me thinking of one of my favorite Christmas films, White Christmas. I know that it's an odd segue but bear with me. There's a bit of a heart-wrenching song in the film called "What Do You Do With a General?" that poses the question about the future endeavors of retiring generals. In many ways, I had the same thought about awards-contending films that don't get nominated.

Well, in the case of The Founder, it was put out to pasture rather quickly. Heck, The Weinstein Company moved on so fast that they brought out Gold, another supposed awards contender, about a week later. Much like The Founder, Gold didn't receive any love from the Academy, but that's a story for another day.

To answer the question, though, Oscar-caliber films that don't receive nominations pretty much get left out in the wind to fend for themselves. In the case of The Founder, this was rather unfortunate because the film is a great story and probably would have found a larger audience had it been given a proper push.

The megaplexes' loss is your gain as The Founder is now on DVD and Blu-ray and you can further explore this interesting tall tale of Americana in the comfort of your own home. Director John Lee Hancock is perhaps best known for directing big action films, but when he slows things down like here and The Blind Side, he proves that he is deftly skilled at weaving together compelling narratives.

While he is surrounded by a talented cast performing at the top of their talents, the real star here is Michael Keaton. Much like his Oscar-nominated performance in Birdman, Michael simply exudes the confidence of an actor relishing the moment of his best work and we are all the better because of it.

Some day soon, Michael Keaton will get his Oscar, but until then we get to enjoy the quality projects that he continually brings to theaters. The Founder is definitely a film that will find a wide audience on home entertainment this week and beyond.

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