It must say something about the United States that its most important, influential firms got their start based on swindles.
At least as far as film adaptations go, The Social Network, Steve Jobs, and now The Founder have portrayed these titans of industry as dishonest and power hungry, but also super humanly brilliant.
This begs the question: Is success on a global scale dependent on the dismissal of commonly respected values as truth and loyalty?
Or, as a character in the superb Steve Jobs says, is it binary? Can you be gifted and decent at the same time, or does one cancel the other?
Because The Founder is the weakest of the three films, it doesn’t point to that argument being the case, but a general look into the lives of the geniuses these movies explore paints a bleak image to all the fools who bank on morality getting them very far.
I suppose in theory, the argument posed by the devilishly good looking and deviously conniving pair of females at the heart of Knock Knock holds up.
A cheater is a cheater, no matter under what circumstances the cheating might have occurred.
But what if you are ambushed in your own bathroom by two very nubile and very naked young ladies, like poor Evan (Keanu Reeves) was? Surely he should be given a pass, no matter how married he is. After all, the scene gives the impression of coercion rather than seduction.
Alas, that is not to be Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel’s (Ana de Armas) reasoning. Evan must pay for his infidelity.
It is all part of a twisted game to gauge a man’s morality, as the girls put it at one point, albeit a game that is rigged from the start. I wonder who among the male viewers would be able to actually emerge victorious from such competition.
And yet, it makes a certain sense. Temptation is not supposed to be fair. The reason why it is rare to encounter a person of true integrity is because all the others who claimed they did as well, gave in to their desires the minute their character was put on trial.
Throughout the movie, Evan keeps repeating what a good man and upstanding father he is, but he is not trying to convince his captors of it; he’s trying to convince himself.
Genesis and Bel are angels come to this world to unmask humanity’s failures and judge them for it. Is the punishment too excessive? That is for each viewer to decide.
Do the themes of morality and righteousness make this a good film? Not necessarily. Eli Roth’s decision to play this as both satire and psychological horror means the movie is always good at one thing but constantly failing at the other. Despite of its failings, it is clear to this writer, after having seen Roth’s entire oeuvre, that this is by far his most accomplished picture.
If the commitment displayed here, in which he manages not to chop anybody up for 90 minutes, is maintained, then perhaps his next endeavor might be worth a trip to the cinema after all.
That the Dardenne brothers created the most perfect and suitable ending for their parable is a testament to how well they understand humanity.
There exists no villains in this story, not even the boss that made his employees choose between receiving a bonus, or helping Sandra (Cotillard) keep her job.
Before the movie’s over, we discover that the decision was not born of malicious intent, but of necessity: the work only needs 16 people, not the 17 previously thought.
So, what is the right thing to do?
In a world in which Justice is arbitrarily applied and defined, everyone simply tries their best to survive amidst all the noise which surrounds us.
Did you go for the bonus at the expense of someone else’s job?
Maybe your own wife is unemployed.
But if so, then why would you want the same for someone else?
The Dardenne brothers show Sandra going from door to door, pleading her case, and none of the answers, however mad some can make us, can really be faulted.
Would we act differently? Could we really love our neighbor? How do any of us claim to be doing the right thing, when there are countless unconsidered reasons and explanations we simply cannot be aware of?
By film’s end, we know that no matter the circumstance or the person, as far as we are concerned, we should try to consider, really consider, our fellow human beings. We should try.