Tuesday, October 31st, 2017


When you can get beyond staring at all the effort the prosthetic team have made to transform Woody Harrelson into looking like the leathery Lyndon B Johnson, then you can enjoy the fun that Harrelson has with his hammy over-the-top performance that is actually quite a joy to watch.

This new engrossing biopic on the man who a twist of fate would make the 36th U.S. President is directed by veteran filmmaker Rob Reiner from a script by  Joey Hartstone.

It opens with LBJ as the Leader of the Senate bullying one of his colleagues to insist that he votes as he wants him too. At least with the Senator he uses an element of tact, but when some hapless aide is unable to confirm to LBJ that he still doesn’t have enough votes for this latest Measure to pass the Senate, he gets the full extent of LBJ’s rage.

As a Veteran Southern Democratic Leader Johnson is both admired and feared and as Robert Kennedy  (Michael Stahl-David ) finds out when he tries to nail LBJ about his political ambition, Johnson cannot ever be dissuaded once his mind is made up. Despite saying that he will not seek the nomination to be his party’s Presidential candidate, Johnson does decide to run against John F Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan). He knows the younger man lacks experience and is Catholic, but privately admits as he is as handsome as hell with his telegenic looks, Kennedy will end up being the winner.

When JFK offers Johnson the Vice President slot on the ticket he does so against the opinions of his brother Bobby and all of his young Aides who vehemently claim that Johnson is too old and set in his ways. He overrules them simply because Johnson can deliver the crucial vote in the Southern states which JFK desperately needed as he won the Presidency with one of the slimmest majorities in electoral history.

Like seemingly every other US President, Kennedy who is egged on by his brother, ensures that as the Vice President, Johnson will no real power and makes him the chair of a toothless committee to look into employment practices as they try and move to Kennedy’s dream of segregation.

We see a frustrated LBJ with even more temper tantrums for instead of bullying Senators to follow his own program he is now expected to make them tow the line on Kennedy’s plans which he barely supports himself.  Reiner portrays the relationship  with the President having at least some respect for his much older Vice President, but LBJ is quietly seething at the fact that he sees this now as the end to his long political career.

It is on that fateful day in Dallas when Kennedy is shot dead in his motorcade, that in a matter of a couple of hours, LBJ suddenly finds himself elevated to the Presidency. More importantly he starts to immediately act Presidential with a well-considered thoughtfulness that he had never displayed before.  The ‘bully’  politician became  a conciliatory leader who not only was quick to embrace all of the late President’s circle, but he went against all the advice of his aides and colleagues and pursued Kennedy’s civil rights legislation with a passion and a determination.

By all accounts this fairly conventional biopic is quite an engaging one too , not just because of Harrelson’s scene-stealing rather hammy dramatics, but also because of the performances from the first rate supporting cast.  Particular from Jennifer Jason-Leigh who was pitch perfect at LBJ’s devoted wife Lady Bird, and also the talented Richard Jenkins as the Leader of the Southern Caucus. 

The movie ends with LBJ at the height of his popularity after the success of the Civil Rights Bill, but as the credits roll, we are reminded that as President he went on to step up the Vietnam War which not only cost thousands of men their lives, it also cost him the Presidency too.


Posted by queerguru  at  17:11

Genres:  biopic, drama

Follow queerguru

Search This Blog

View 5 min movie By: