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Like many Americans, I didn’t know (or vastly underestimated) the full story of Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ). We all fall guilty to a quick historical association – “Lyndon Baines Johnson was primarily responsible for the magnitude of the loss within the Vietnam War.”
When we pull from our memory, it is human nature to revel in the bad or to celebrate the wonderful; and forgo from taking such an evaluation of the whole. Johnson’s presidential legacy is often remembered under this purview. We immediately focus on the atrocities that occurred within Vietnam but forget his prior political career. Rob Reiner’s most recent film, LBJ pays homage to the unknown, or perhaps the misremembered humanism of the former president.
LBJ premiered within the United States at the opening night of the New Orleans Film Festival. Both director Rob Reiner and Woody Harrelson, who starred as Lyndon Johnson, were in attendance and appeased the crowd by engaging in a brief Q&A session following its screening. The overall aura of the film was eclectic – Reiner chose to prod around with the timeline of the film. It was a very effective methodology of storytelling, as he was able to govern what and at what time the audience would learn. The majority of his audience came in with a predetermined viewpoint. Trickling in information from sporadic time elements dictated the speed at which he wanted President Johnson’s story to be told.
Reiner’s compassion for LBJ was evident within the film. (He even mentioned in the Q&A session that he was completely against the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam crisis.) However, he chose to challenge his own viewpoints to place the camera at an unbiased angle. What you find is not the brash president that is written within the historical works, but a more compassionate personality (although quite hawkish from a political stance). We discover a myriad of complexities embedded deep within the man – not the legend. We all could learn by applying Reiner’s approach more often within our own predeterminations.
These characterizations of Lyndon B. Johnson was only made available through the captivating work of Woody Harrelson. I would find it odd if he was not nominated for his performance; although, his performance was counter intuitive within its own right. Harrelson was almost unrecognizable as Johnson. The emotional and the charismatic contradictions of his portrayal somehow served as a yin to his yang. I often noticed the audience laughing at equally as they were irked with the decisions from the President.
The deeper embodiment of this film directly highlights our nation’s fallout within its political practices and its racial tensions within social identifications. The film’s message couldn’t have been better timed.