LBJ

Directed by Rob Reiner who is mostly known for comedies, LBJ provides a fascinating historical look into the larger-than-life 36th President of the United States, unexpectedly played by Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson, but,  unfortunately, becomes nothing more than a formulaic biopic that adds very little significance to the already robust cultural treatment of President Johnson. The movie is a series of flashbacks between the fateful days of November 1963 following President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas and the early years of the Johnson Administration pursuing the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964. It does a fairly good job of recreating the moments surrounding the JFK assassination, but it does not feel that remarkable since it has been depicted so many times in films and television. The main emphasis of the film is the emotional stress of LBJ witnessing the death of the American president at the same time that he finally achieves his lifelong dream of becoming president. I found the most interesting aspect to be the portrayal of the often difficult and toxic relationships between LBJ, JFK, and members of JFK’s inner circle, especially his brother Bobby who was the attorney general. When he finally ascends the presidency, LBJ must work all legislative and executive options to pass the controversial Civil Rights Act, which potentially alienates him from his former Democratic colleagues from the South serving in the Senate and House, including the more conservative Georgia Senator Richard Russell, played by Academy Award nominee Richard Jenkins, and more liberal Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough, played by Bill Pullman. The movie does a superficial job of delving into the emotions of LBJ and only provides a little insight into his special relationship with his wife Lady Bird Johnson, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Overall, I found it to be intriguing only for providing additional stories about such a complicated figure as LBJ, and the film feels lacking in providing a fuller picture of such a charismatic and dynamic president by just focusing on two very specific moments in the life of LBJ.

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