Perhaps more than any president in contemporary history, Lyndon Baines Johnson seemed perfectly to reflect the times in which he assumed and navigated the trappings of the highest office in the land. Johnson came to power in the early days of the turbulent sixties, a time of flower power, sexual and cultural revolution, and widespread protests that consumed the nation against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war. In the film LBJ, directed by filmmaker Rob Reiner from a script by Joey Hartstone, Johnson’s ascension to power is depicted in the immediate period just prior to the Democratic presidential nomination, a trophy that eluded the powerful Senate majority leader when the charismatic younger senator, John F. Kennedy, proved too much of charismatic force for Johnson to overcome. In a surprising bit of casting, Woody Harrelson portrays Johnson as the often vulgar beguiling politician that Johnson embodied so well.
The plot follows Johnson’s selection as Kennedy’s vice-president, Johnson’s assumption of the office following Kennedy’s assassination, to the point when Johnson takes on his predecessor’s legislative agenda, most notably the passage of the historic Civil Rights act that came to be in 1964. Perhaps no one of his time had the political capital to push that bill through a congress with many powerful Southern lawmakers dead set against changing the status quo in a Deep South in which African-Americans were at best second-class citizens.
The cast includes acting heavyweights Jennifer Jason Lee, Bill Pullman and Richard Jenkins, among other notables.
While the film garners a disappointing score of 59 on RottenTomatoes, reviews have generally been positive about the film’s principal actors.
LBJ runs 1 hour 38 minutes and is rated R.
Check out the film’s trailer along with comments about the film from Harrelson, Reiner and screenwriter Hartstone below..