What you may need to know:
1. It’s awards season, which means the historical biopics are getting their annual workout. The Founder sees Michael Keaton play salesman Ray Kroc, who recognised the potential of the “fast-food” concept established by the McDonald brothers (John Carroll Lynch and a distressingly facial hair-free Nick Offerman) in the 1950s. He helped build it into a billion-dollar business before stealing it out from under them, completely legally.
2. It’s the American dream in action, then.
4. The timing of the release suggests The Founder’s producers had an eye on a few Oscar nominations – especially since director John Lee Hancock’s last two features Saving Mr. Banks (2013) and The Blind Side (2009) were very awards-friendly works. Despite positive reviews though, it has failed to make much of a splash on that front.
5. Perhaps the broader timing is the issue. Big-business anti-heroes have long been a staple of cinema, from Gordon Gekko all the way through to Jordan Belfort. But now that we’re in the era of you-know-who, it might be slightly harder for audiences to take to a character whose “ruthless drive to succeed alienates everyone in his yadda yadda yadda…but he’s really an OK guy!”
6. The comparisons are impossible to avoid though, of course. Laura Dern, who play’s Kroc’s first wife Ethel Fleming, called it “wonderfully appropriate timing. The theme of the film addresses a much larger question: Can capitalism and compassion coexist? It is really incredible to look at what’s happening right now in this country and ask that question. It’s not just that we’re seeing severe narcissism. We’re seeing people who need to attack and bully others. I think there are a lot of parallels to what’s happening right now.”
7. The role of Ray Kroc looks to be a perfect fit for Michael Keaton, whose penchant for barely-concealed manic energy bubbling just below the surface is well-suited to an obsessive businessman. His recent career renaissance that we’ve mentioned before has served him well, but other than this year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, his slate’s looking a little dry. Let’s hope he hasn’t expended all that goodwill that came after Birdman (2014).
8. It may look ultimately like a big-screen marketing exercise, but eventually comes across as a sort of confession. “It’s an ad that becomes a warning before circling around and becoming another, darker kind of advertisement,” writes Matt Zoller Seitz of Rogerebert.com. “In the end, it seems vaguely ashamed of itself for letting this happen.”
Doug’s verdict: I’m Lovin’ It
Release date: February 10.