Woody Harrelson gives a convincing, in-depth performance as the late President Lyndon B. Johnson in “LBJ,” the absorbing take on the Vice President fated to assume the presidency upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Directed by Rob Reiner from Joey Hartstone’s screenplay, “LBJ “ intriguingly touches various political and personal bases as Johnson’s administration unfolds.
But the key to the film is Harrelson’s portrait. Makeup helps a lot to make him look acceptably like LBJ, and he has the posture, accent and walking style to add to the effect. However, what comes across most importantly is Harrelson’s ability to project Johnson’s feelings, emotions and determination to pass the civil rights legislation that proved anathema to entrenched Southern opponents.
Harrelson also conveys the shock and sense of the enormous burden placed upon him just after the assassination. He must move swiftly to take office in the face of the mourning Kennedy family, with Robert Kennedy understandably pressing for a delay. One can relate closely to LBJ as a person throughout the film in the way he is shown relating to others.
The screenplay covers much, including Johnson’s conducting business while in the john and other earthy mannerisms. Once you accept the portrayal, you are able to put in focus the trajectory of Johnson’s llife and administration.
Ultimately, the tragedy of Johnson’s course of pursuing the war in Vietnam has led to obliteration of his accomplishments measured against this one gigantic error so costly in lives and money and the very nature of our nation. What we get in his depiction of Johnson by Harrelson’s superb acting is a solid sense of who he was. An Electric Entertainment release. Reviewed November 3, 2017.