Director Rob Reiner's casting of Woody Harrelson is the most intriguing part of this otherwise conventional portrait of the 36th President of the United States of America, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

As is common when trying to capture the essence of a man in the space of an hour and half, screenwriter Joey Hartstone focuses on just a few years, during which LBJ goes from Senate majority leader to Vice-President and then, after the assassination of JFK, to President.

Harrelson captures Johnson's dogged, hardworking approach to politics; and his bluntness and gracelessness, especially in his wheeling and dealing. He injects pace, energy and colour into a familiar storytelling approach that flicks back and forth across the period, and presents a human face to one of America's less-glamorous presidents.

Thanks to some impressive prosthetics (which are also distracting – where do they begin and end?) - there is some physical similarity between actor and subject but Harrelson is more interested in grasping who Johnson was, rather than mimicking him. He's aided in the task by an under-used Jennifer Jason Leigh as wife Lady Bird Johnson and Richard Jenkins as racist Southern Senator Richard Russell.


LBJ isn't an exciting take on this intriguing president, but its cast make sure it's a well-performed one.


Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Jason Leigh


Rob Reiner

Running Time:

97 mins



M (Violence & offensive language)


Conventional, solid, entertaining.