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Founder, The


Stars: Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B J Novak

Director: John Lee Hancock

McDonald's founder Ray Kroc (Keaton) hardly emerges covered in glory from this penetrating, if overlong look at the formation of the famous fast food empire.

An unsuccessful milkshake machine salesman, Kroc hits pay dirt when he happens on a report that a flourishing hamburger restaurant in California has ordered eight of the machines.

Driving down to San Bernardino and leaving his long-suffering wife (Dern) behind, Kroc is fascinated by the McDonald brothers (Offerman, Lynch) and their operation: food organised with clockwork precision and served a the window within 30 seconds. Kroc smells something besides the burgers - an outstanding franchise opportunity.

The brothers have tried to expand themselves without being able to control failings in their out-of-California restaurants, but Ray makes it work: he takes dynamic men he trusts to run the various McDonald's branches, including a restaurateur (Wilson), whose blonde wife (Cardellini) soon catches Ray's roving eye.

Overstretched financially, after re-mortgaging his home, and hampered by a contract that allows him only a tiny percentage of the profits, Ray finds himself stymied by the brothers' refusal to veer from their original concept. But a financial wizard (Novak) not above bending the rules offers him a way out...

Keaton's hard-driving performance helps you admire his achievements, but, in building on success, he grinds the McDonald brothers into the dust. Anyone who stands in his way, from the McDonalds to his wife, is dumped. No, the 'founder' does come out of this too well.

Director Hancock struggles a bit to extend all this to a two-hour feature, but the acting is top-notch, with notable support from Offerman as the 'brains' of the brothers, and a charming little interlude when Keaton and Cardellini sing Pennies from Heaven together at the piano. Well, if Stone and Gosling can do it...

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour by MPI.
117 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 11 Feb 2017