At first glance I was rather surprised at the relatively low ratings for the new docudrama LBJ, directed by Rob Reiner, only 5.8 on IMDB and 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. I thought this was a very solid and well done history lesson about the political life of Lyndon Baines Johnson, with some of the story told using flashbacks. Much of what happens in this movie is well known but just as much is not known including how difficult Johnson’s life as Vice President to John F. Kennedy was, due to the Kennedy brothers disrespecting and shutting him out of the important decisions of the Kennedy administration. From the perspective of Bobby and John Kennedy, Johnson was an outsider from the South who was made Vice President for political reasons to get Kennedy elected in 1960. On top of this, as was made very clear in this story, Bobby Kennedy was in some ways using Johnson for his own Presidential ambitions for the election of 1968.
To this day its amazing how long it took this country to pass basic human rights legislation, including the Civil Rights act of 1964 that was started by Kennedy and finalized by Johnson after Kennedy was assassinated. What were we thinking for so many years in this country, suppressing the basic rights of millions of people for so many years? So much of this backward thinking was because too many of the wrong people were in charge, including a major character in this movie Senator Richard Russell, played very well by actor Richard Jenkins, who was both a very powerful Senator as well as a bigot who did everything in his power to prevent the Civil Rights act because of his racism and stupidity.
I was impressed with this movie for several reasons, starting with the acting of Woody Harrelson as LBJ, in one of the best roles of his career and Jennifer Jason Leigh who was unrecognizable as Lady Bird Johnson. The makeup and the sets in this movie were all outstanding and I thought Rob Reiner’s direction was also outstanding.
Despite the average ratings for this movie, I thought it was very good and I recommend it.