Plot: Lyndon Johnson (Woody Harrelson) was a key figure in politics during one of the most tumultuous times in American history. He would be a powerful presence on the Senate floor for years, serve next to John F. Kennedy, rally a landmark civil rights bill, and navigate the muddied waters of Vietnam. But before most of that, he would face a crossroads when his bid for presidential election came up short and his lifelong dream seemed impossible. In LBJ, we’re taken inside Johnson’s life in the years that led to his days in the oval office, including some touchstone moments in American politics and culture in general. This period found Johnson at his weakest in terms of power and clout, but he refused to just stand idle. This film shows how he pushed through and made the most of his position as a vice president that no one seemed to want around, despite his willingness to help however he could.
Entertainment Value: LBJ is an interesting movie, which is no surprise, as Johnson was quite a colorful, memorable persona. You learn about his no nonsense approach to life early in the movie, when he barks orders at a tailor to give his “endowment” more room in his pants, then discusses important issues while he defecates with the door open. He was an interesting character and in LBJ, we go inside his life during a period where he felt out of place and powerless. This is such an intriguing way to approach the material, as Johnson was a power player in the Senate just before these events and afterward, he would hold immense power as the president, but in the window portrayed in the movie, he is almost lost. But this shows his resilience and determination, as he refuses to roll over or just stand still, even at this time of political weakness, he fought with passion and resolve. I appreciated the movie, but I do think most of the information is commonly known, even to those without a deep interest in American history. But it offers a look at a colorful persona, so perhaps it is less about the events that transpire, but a chance to see LBJ as a person. If you like biopics or historical dramas, LBJ is a brisk watch and never fails to entertain.
No nakedness. A little blood during the assassination, but it is shown at a distance and not in a graphic fashion. The dialogue is colorful and sometimes hilarious, as Johnson was a wildcard and the movie shows that side of his persona often. Woody Harrelson has the lead and brings LBJ to life quite while, able to convey his old school mindset, but retain a sympathetic side even in his lesser moments. The heavy makeup is a little distracting, but it is well done and brings Harrelson closer to the look, even if it is still a little off. The movie has some memorable lines, from Johnson’s discussion with his tailor, to talking about threatening to cut off someone’s two inch pecker, to his talks about race with various folks. Jennifer Jason Leigh is also here and turns in a great performance, as Lady Bird Johnson. In terms of craziness, LBJ was indeed a colorful, wildcard type and that leads to some humorous moments. So one point of craziness for his larger than life persona, but otherwise, this is a grounded drama.
The Disc: Umbrella Entertainment has released LBJ on DVD with a rock solid visual presentation. The image is clean and clear, as you’d expect from such a recent movie, while detail is above average, colors are natural, and contrast is smooth. As far as DVD transfers go, this one is quite good. The disc has no supplements.