A flattering portrayal of an accidental president

We live in dispiriting times, and a symptom of that must surely be a movie made by liberal Hollywood director Rob Reiner that takes one of the most vulgar men to occupy the White House and attempts to portray him as transformed by the presidency into a better, greater man.

 

LBJ

Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Stahl-David, Richard Jenkins, Jeffrey Donovan, Bill Pullman, C. Thomas Howell, John Ellison Conlee, Michael Mosley, Kate Butler, Jeanne Caldarera, Margo Moorer
Rating: (M)
★★★+

 

There is actually a lot to like about LBJ (Rialto), especially when it shows Lyndon B. Johnson (Woody Harrelson) in full wheeler-dealer flight.

As Senate Majority Leader, he was the most powerful man in Washington and he relished all the games that went into maintaining that power, but he had an itch to be president.

That was blocked by the charisma of John F. Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan) and his brother Bobby (Michael Stahl-David), but when offered the No2 spot on the ticket, he grabbed it, after realising the vice-president’s job was a useful launching pad towards becoming president.

Johnson had a track record of taking on no-account jobs and turning them into power bases, but the vice-presidency neutered him, as the Kennedy brothers carefully kept him at arm’s length.

LBJ starts on that fateful day in Dallas, with Johnson grumpily aware that political power has passed him by.

This is a kindly appraisal of Johnson, but it seems strange that LBJ ignores Vietnam, the ultimate unmaking of his presidency.

- Christine Powley

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