Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2016: Michael Keaton in The Founder

Michael Keaton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ray Kroc in The Founder.

The Founder tells the story of the foundation of McDonalds. The film isn't bad but it is a little weird because director John Lee Hancock doesn't seem to understand the nature of the story.

John Lee Hancock oddly directs with the same old bag of tricks that he used in his earlier films like The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks. There's no cynicism to his work, in fact there only seems to be optimism which is a strange fit to even the screenplay itself which plays out more like the Social Network than The Pursuit of Happyness. As bizarre as it is, Hancock and a few of the minor actors in the film are the only ones who seem lost in regards to what the tone should be. The man who seems to understand it the best is Michael Keaton.Technically speaking though in the early scenes of the film we are given a Ray Kroc who might be a bit more suitable to the type of character that John Lee Hancock likes to follow. Kroc in the opening scenes is just a past his prime salesman still trying to hock goods, in this case milkshake mixers. Keaton doesn't quite make Kroc Shelley Levine from Glengarry Glen Ross, but he does gives us a salesman whose beginning to show his rust. Keaton brings still that idea of the energy needed for a salesman, even when he is failing to make his sales, but he grants the right sense that the pitch has been delivered a few too many times.

Keaton makes Kroc a washed up salesman but a likable enough washed up salesman. Keaton brings that Keatoness that only Keaton could possibly bring which has a definite charm to it, and is a great fit for Ray Kroc. Kroc comes across something new by discovering the innovative fast food design of McDonalds, owned by the McDonald brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch), and Dick (Nick Offerman). They give them their history, of failure yet eventual success. Keaton's terrific as he brings out this certain spark back to Kroc, possibly from his prime, as he looks upon the brother's successful idea. What's special about what Keaton does though is even in these early scenes there is something a little devious in his eyes. As he pitches the idea of McDonalds as a franchise to the brothers, he pitches it as basically something for America. Keaton makes the passion in Kroc's voice real and even makes it rather endearing yet not wholly truthful. Keaton shows just enough of it to be act in the way he portrays Kroc's glances at those golden arches. His eyes are not filled with hope for all of three of them to achieve their dream, rather a selfish desire only for himself.

It is easy enough to sympathize with Kroc early on still as Keaton so effectively realizes the sheer exuberance in the man as he goes about his attempt to begin the franchise. He underlines this though with a bit less certainty in Kroc with every initial failure. Keaton uses his few scenes with Kroc's first wife Ethel (Laura Dern) particularly well. In these scenes Keaton gives us an actual vulnerability in Kroc as he reveals the desperation in his ambition actually. When he says that "enough" will never be enough, Keaton does not deliver it as inspirational, rather he undercuts it with a certain distress in Kroc's voice. Now the following scenes probably wouldn't work with so many actors in the role. They are just Kroc at first working out the various kinks in the plan, while dealing with the frustrations related to the McDonald brothers who take a long time to make any decision. When Kroc is just "hoofing" it, dealing with some of the most minute details of the business, Keaton manages to make these scenes work better than they should because he's such a naturally entertaining and engaging presence, even when doing something such as yelling at an investor for using lettuce on the burgers.

We are given pure premium Keaton though as the franchises take off and Kroc only gets better at his task. Keaton is brilliant as the pure salesman selling more than just the idea to the investors, selling a dream instead. Keaton brings the grandeur needed in it all as he sells it all, and makes the success convincing just through the magnificent of his pitch. Keaton even maintains some real sympathy for Kroc by so bluntly still portraying the initial frustrations with the brothers who delay him at every turn. There is a change though as Kroc decides to take things into his own hands by essentially stealing the company out from underneath the brothers, and becoming the "true" founder of McDonalds. This is kind of where we have this certain conflict between Keaton and the film itself. In that Keaton knows where the story needs to go, but the film seems a little unsure of itself. Keaton is not afraid though to take the darker turn as he has Kroc reveal his true colors. The thing is Keaton never hid the seeds of this, having the devious quality from his first sale, but he takes it to the next level as Kroc goes about removing any obstacles in his path.

Keaton just relishes in the metaphorical kill as he takes any loophole he can to remove the McDonalds' claim. I have to admit my particular affection for his callous delivery of "Contracts are like hearts, they're meant to broken". Kroc's no prisoners attitude though extends even to his personal life as he decides to drop his wife for another. Although it is an extremely brief scene, as though the film is in some way timid towards the subject matter, Keaton is not timid as he so coldly delivers Kroc's demand for a divorce. Keaton inflicts within it no shame, just a heartless sentiment of a man who intends on getting whatever he wants no matter what. Keaton simply excels in the final moments of the film as Kroc secures every last part of McDonalds for himself. He's outstanding in the scene as he bothers with the good old salesman just one more time, offering such sincerity as he says he'll honor their bargain with a handshake. Keaton compliments this perfectly with the perfect smug satisfaction exudes a scene later when he tells Dick McDonald why he stole their idea in this exact way. Keaton's performance doesn't just elevate the film it gives the proper meaning to it. Keaton never sugarcoats his Ray Kroc, he goes about giving an honest depiction of a businessman who will do whatever it takes to get on top.  By taking the darker turn he needs to take with his performance Keaton shows that this isn't an inspirational portrait of a man achieving his dream, it's the story of a man stealing someone else's dream and making it his own.

36 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Calvin Law said...

Welp, need to see this one.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

Glad to hear he is great in this.

Charles Heiston said...

I have to see this too. Another 5 star performance from Keaton.

I assume Birdman is still your favorite of his?

Luke Higham said...

Charles: Comparing both reviews, Louis' way more enthusiastic with his work in Birdman.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: Well, It's almost here. The multiple month long journey of the Garfield/Silence review is coming tomorrow.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: THE END HAS COME!

Garfield's going to be the 2nd best male leading performance of the decade, according to Louis and who knows, he might actually take the #1 spot.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: I forgot who Louis's #1 favorite male lead performance of the decade was. Was it Phoenix?

Luke Higham said...

Charles: Yep. :)

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: Ahh, okay thanks. I got a feeling Garfield could take #1. He's my favorite lead of the decade so far.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: Phoenix is also Louis' favourite performance of the decade so far (Lead or Supporting, Male or Female).

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: It certainly is a strong performance which could hold Louis's #1. But all i can do is hope that Garfield can make number 1.

Anonymous said...

I could imagine if Keaton won his overdue Oscar for this. It would be deserving.

Calvin Law said...

Saw Elle. Found it extremely compelling, even if it petered out a bit towards the end, and altogether twisted in a unique sort of way. Huppert was...amazing.

Michael McCarthy said...

I could honestly go as high as a 4 for Offerman and a 4.5 for Lynch.

Robert MacFarlane said...

BEHOLD: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=U4gsAS8h3p0

Charles Heiston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael McCarthy said...

But wait Robert, you once said that Shawn Mendes was the Ansel Elgort of music. If that's true, what does that make Ansel Elgort?

Robert MacFarlane said...

Ansel Elgort is now the Ansel Elgort of music. Which is to say the nadir of the arts.

Charles Heiston said...

Robert: Seems great.

RatedRStar said...

I really liked the song, it had this sort of cheap, tacky, shitty quality to it.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I haven't seen either this or Loving, but I'm glad to see both Edgerton and Keaton gave brilliant performances :)

Anyways, I can't wait for Garfield's review. After Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler and McAvoy in Filth, he's my third favorite lead performance of the decade.

Anonymous said...

OMG 96% percent on Rotten Tomatoes for John Wick 2.

Charles Heiston said...

The Garfield review is probably one of the anticipated reviews in blog history.

Charles Heiston said...

most anticipated reviews in this blog history*

Anonymous said...

Garfield is going to be one of the most easy 5's in recent blog memory.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the description of Silence will be from Louis, pretty great, excellent, masterful, legendary, not sure what the description will be like.

Luke Higham said...

One of the greatest films ever made. :)

Charles Heiston said...

Scorsese holds multiple greatest of all time films. But Silence is his greatest. Legendary.

Alex Marqués said...

It's pretty great, but I personally don't think it's his best. But I think I disagree with many people of this section when it comes to Scorsese (my favourite will always be Taxi Driver).

Giuseppe Fadda said...

Actuallly I agree with Alex. I think Silence is a great movie, beautifully shot and extremely well acted. But I don't think it's Scorsese's best (Goodfellas is unbeatable for me) and it's "only" my 4th favourite film of the year after Moonlight, La La Land and Arrival.

Charles Heiston said...

Giuseppe: Goodfellas is a close second to Silence right now. But still might be my favorite Scorsese flick. But i think Silence is superior to the rest of the films of 2016.

Luke Higham said...

Top 10 Overall prediction
1. Garfield
2. Bridges
3. Edgerton
4. Mortensen
5. Washington
6. Gosling
7. Pine
8. Affleck
9. Garfield
10. Keaton

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: Top 10 overall prediction:
1. Garfield/Silence
2. Mortensen
3. Washington
4. Bridges
5. Gosling
6. Pine
7. Edgerton
8. Affleck
9. Garfield
10. Keaton

Michael McCarthy said...

I'll bite

1. Garfield
2. Mortensen
3. Washington
4. Bridges
5. Edgerton
6. Pine
7. Gosling
8. Keaton
9. Affleck
10. Garfield

Also since someone mentioned Taxi Driver I've been meaning to ask everyone, are there any widely acclaimed films that most people on this blog think are overrated but that you absolutely love? The biggest one for me is Annie Hall.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Offerman/Lynch - 4(Both are very good at offering very sympathetic yet different sorts. Lynch is actually rather heartbreaking by making the guys just normal upbeat behavior seem just so honest, making the way Kroc betrays truly painful. Offerman offsets this nicely by granting a bit more cynicism in his turn, matching the intensity of Keaton rather well. I especially love his final stare down with him in the bathroom over the name.)

Novak - 3(A good bit of sleaze but rather underused.)

Dern - 3(Does well with what she has but just also underused.)