LBJ Blu-ray Review
There might be a legitimate reason why I haven’t heard about LBJ until this point. The movie, not the President. The Rob Reiner film is very by the books. It’s something that would have worked about two decades ago when he was cranking out other films like THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT and A FEW GOOD MEN. But the key difference between those films and LBJ is that he doesn’t have an all-star cast or Aaron Sorkin writing iconic dialogue. When those things are stripped away, Reiner is left to his own creative devices and LBJ shows some rust.
I have to backtrack a little because I think it’s a little unfair to start out so negatively with a movie that I genuinely enjoyed. But I only enjoyed it because I didn’t live through this stretch of American history, nor do I know that much about America’s 36th President. For those reasons, I found Reiner’s film to be interesting, which used the well-known JFK assassination as a framing device for LBJ’s ascension to the presidency. But I can see why many of the film’s dramatic moments peppered throughout the film can be viewed as cookie-cutter.
It gives a young critic like me a lot more appreciation for a film like JACKIE that takes something well-known and adds several layers to the film through flashbacks, voiceovers, and scenes that feel more like figments of the historical figure’s imagination. We’re only really given an insight into the mind of LBJ when he’s interacting with other characters and being bold about his intentions or speaking bluntly and freely with staffers. It’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t give the audience any ambiguity. That would have created a little bit more suspense in what emotional attachments the viewer should be making as the movie progresses.
The film is moderately short, so if it’s goal is to encapsulate an integral history lesson in a brief amount of time, it does the job well. It helps that Woody Harrelson seems to inhabit the body of an aging politician that’s noticing the turning of the tides and the shifting mood of the U.S. But we’re not seeing a next level performance like Harrelson turned in THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT or even in his most recent work, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. But the veteran actor does help lead a pack of formidable players like Jennifer Jason-Leigh and Richard Jenkins. Harrelson is undeniably magnetic in this performance, but verbally he lacks that southern draw LBJ had.
LBJ isn’t a memorable Reiner or Harrelson film, but it’s a suitable historical fix for those who don’t remember the President or, just like me, weren’t alive during his tenure. The film sometimes leaves something to be desired for those looking to learn something beyond the surface level, but it can be commended for giving us the juiciest bits. It made me crave for more information outside what was given, and I can’t fault the film for getting me to read. Despite several lengthy complaints at the beginning of the review, I enjoyed it and don’t regret watching it. As for a second immediate viewing, I’d have to let a decade pass until I consider it.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 1:85:1) This film looks crisp, only coming into visual trouble when it uses stock footage. Outside of that minor grip, there’s nothing wrong with the blu-ray’s quality.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) I didn’t notice any problems with the audio, but that might also be because the film doesn’t have a noticeable soundtrack.