I gave LBJ five stars because it was a solid four star movie with a little something extra. Actually it had a lot of something extra. I only put a few of the outstanding actors on the tag list. Casting went all-out gathering talent and skills. Best of all, you can watch this outstanding movie for free on ElectricNow Television.
Michael Stahl-David did a decent job for a young actor playing Bobby Kennedy. I added him to the tag list because I think I actually met him in passing. It was my first tour of duty at Leo Burnett (a Publicis Groupe company) working on IPOS (Intel Point of Sale). Whenever you walk past the computer section of a big box store and the computer is running one of those “Explore this computer” applications, some geek like me helped create that for Intel, Microsoft, AMD, etc.
In a cluster of cubies (when they grew up they might become cubicles) was this tall, slender, attractive in a girl next door someone should marry her kind of way young woman who must have been doing casting for commercials. I remember her showing someone around that looked like him. I also remember, about a week later, she was bitching to her girlfriend over near my cube that he had just called to reschedule the shoot. Why? He had just gotten a role in a series. Commercial had to shoot early or not at all. No, I didn’t care enough at the time to find out what happened.
You would think, given all of the times I’ve had to visit clients in Chicago that I would bump into famous actors like John Cusack, but it doesn’t happen. Seems like you only bump into people before they become famous, so you barely remember them.
Tip: Never work on the second floor of the Leo Burnett building. The men’s room doesn’t have ventilation. By noon humans cannot safely enter. The other floors seem to be okay.
Great Performances in LBJ
Jeffrey Donovan really sold his role as John Kennedy. He really can do something other than blowing shit up in Miami.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is incredible as Lady Bird. She even sounds like an old married woman. They gave her one of the most important lines of the movie. More on that in a bit.
He did his research and he did the work of selling the role. He most definitely deserved all of the Oscar chatter. Woody Harrelson gets a lot of nutball comedy roles and people think that is all he can do. Do yourself a favor and check out some of his serious acting.
I was something of a history buff during high school. I was also born not long after president Kennedy was assassinated. Oh, it’s not just me. All old people from that time can either tell you where they were when they heard Kennedy was assassinated, or became a history buff of that era. It’s why there are so many JFK conspiracy theories and movies. Well, that and the fact all of the documents still have not been declassified. That was 1963. Nobody from that year could still be under cover. Some connected A-hole could still be alive, but you can’t put a spy under cover for 60 years. Doesn’t a mandatory retirement age apply to spooks as well?
What This Movie Gets Right
Everything. More importantly this movie takes the time to demonstrate just how insecure LBJ was. In public he was the tough as nails I’m incredibly well endowed caricature most story tellers portray. The reality was that he had been scared for life by his mother. Jennifer Jason Leigh has the most important line
“Your mother didn’t turn her back on you because she didn’t love you. She turned her back on you because she couldn’t bare to watch you when you weren’t at your best.”
I may not be perfect on that quote. This is where LBJ (2016) goes above and beyond. You don’t understand how scared he is until you hear that line. Earlier in the movie she had another crucial line.
He isn’t afraid of losing. He’s afraid people won’t love him.
Most Powerful Scene in LBJ
Someone beat me to the most powerful scene in the entire movie. They put up a very good page with the audio clip.
It is stunning that in 2023 a 2016 movie about LBJ could be even more relevant than it was at release. Today we have Nazi’s and racists trying to overthrow the government, civil rights, and basic human dignity. They are easy to spot too.