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Woody Harrelson in LBJ.

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
LBJ
Written by
Joey Hartstone
Directed by
Rob Reiner
Starring
Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Richard Jenkins
Genre
Biopic
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2016

And the winner for best supporting jowls in a major motion picture is Woody Harrelson, whose portrayal of the 36th president of the United States is one for the Hollywood facial prosthesis hall of fame. In Rob Reiner's handsome but less-than-stimulating Lyndon Baines Johnson biopic, Harrelson gives it all he has as the gruff, emotionally needy and politically savvy successor to the matinee-idol commander-in-chief, John F. Kennedy.

We meet LBJ as he considers running against JFK for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960. Why was he hesitant? "He's afraid people won't love him," says Lady Bird Johnson (played by an oddly beakish Jennifer Jason Leigh). Flashy time-shifting sequences are employed before the film settles into the story of Johnson's curious civil-rights-bill crusade.

Reiner is no Oliver Stone, but he does stir things up by presenting Bobby Kennedy in the villain's role as a serious jerk and crafty underminer. The unexciting LBJ will win no awards – hell, it finishes second to HBO's Bryan Cranston-starring All the Way as the best LBJ biopic of 2016 – but a satisfactorily told political story set in a racially divided America is hyperrelevant, if nothing else.

Actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie speaks at Tina Brown's Women in the World Summit in Toronto alongside Loung Ung, the author of First They Killed My Father

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