25 September 2023


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Reviewed by Victor Rebikoff.

Director: Rob Reiner, Castle Rock Entertainment, M, 98 Minutes.

There is a coincidence in renowned filmmaker Rob Reiner (‘A Few Good Men’) releasing his latest film this year on the corrosive relationship between LBJ and Robert Kennedy, considering it marks the 50th anniversary of RFK’s assassination in 1968.

This political biopic on Texas politician Lyndon Baines Johnson starts with the JFK assassination before focusing on the early career of LBJ (Woody Harrelson –‘Hunger Games’) and him seeking the presidential nomination at the 1960 Democratic Convention;.

As it turns out, LBJ is chosen at the Convention as JFK’s running mate despite strong objections from his brother Bobby Kennedy (Michael Stahl-David –‘The Congress’) and ultimately becoming Vice President.

As the story switches to that fateful day in Dallas in November 1963, LBJ, accompanied by wife Lady Bird (Jennifer Jason Leigh –‘Morgan’), are waiting for the arrival of John Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan –‘Sicario’) and his wife Jackie (Kim Allen –‘Lyle’).

In the aftermath of the assassination, LBJ assumes the mantle of President aboard Airforce One in the presence of Jackie and Robert Kennedy, promising to deliver on JFK’s important political program, especially his Civil Rights legislation.

In his attempt to get the Civil Rights Bill passed LBJ is hampered not only by RFK’s open-ended enmity towards him but by such Southern politicians as Senators Richard Russell (Richard Jenkins –‘Jack Reacher’) and Ralph Yarborough (Bill Pullman –‘Trouble’).

In spite of the personal and other challenges facing LBJ as President at this time, he still manages to push the legislation through Congress much to the chagrin of Robert Kennedy.

In his cleverly directed biopic Reiner has provided a fascinating insight into the poisonous relationship between Johnson and Robert Kennedy following the assassination of his brother, a popular president.

Although bearing a slight resemblance to the real LBJ, one cannot fault Harrelson’s impressive performance as the controversial politician, notwithstanding the miscasting of Stahl-David as Bobby.

As an historical drama there is much to enjoy in Reiner’s rendition of ‘LBJ’ especially as it delves into an important relationship at that time between two ambitious men.

It is also interesting to note that one ascended into the Presidency as a result of his predecessor’s death in 1963 while the other attempted to do so but was thwarted by an assassin’s bullet in June 1968.

Vic’s Verdict: 3 ½ Stars

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