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The Founder

Like "The Social Network" with a different kind of Macs (these with cheese) THE FOUNDER tells the story of Ray Kroc and the McDonalds restaurant empire from its original days as a single burger stand in California.

Michael Keaton is the right mix of quirky and troubled as Kroc, a frustrated mixer salesman who stumbles on the perfect idea when he visits Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) at their newly opened, very busy hamburger joint.

The brothers are an open book to Kroc, sharing every secret of their success and the magic behind their concept.

Kroc's been looking for the right item, the "next big thing" for years. His wife Ethel (Laura Dern) has lost faith in him, he's started to hit the Southern Comfort a bit too much, and he knows this burger joint is the ONE.

Working with the brothers to begin the idea of franchising the restaurants, he eventually overcomes their resistance and starts an incredible path to the McDonalds we know today.

The journey is fascinating and Kroc owes his success to several key people, including a Tastee Freeze VP he runs into by chance in a bank (BJ Novak).

Keaton is excellent throughout. I think its a much better performance than his Oscar winning one in "Birdman", which left me cold. Whether you relate to him as a shrewd businessman who took a small business to empire status through sheer persistence or see him as a cold-hearted capitalist who hurts the little guy will probably depend as much on your personal politics as it does any reflection on history.

The final scenes with Kroc and the brothers at the lawyers offices are especially telling and very well told.

A tad slow at times, but visually brilliant in its recreation of the legacy McDonalds stores and the fifties and sixties, THE FOUNDER is a fascinating movie.

Offerman and Lynch are heartbreaking as two smart small-town men with a great idea but no desire to expand. Limited by their own vision, they're painful to watch.

You wish you could watch a story about a man with Kroc's vision and the McDonald brothers heart, but that would eliminate much of the fascinating conflict. We'll post a solid B right between the golden arches.

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