It may not be playing in theaters much longer, but the new film “LBJ” is definitely worth seeing. The story is profane in spots, and actor Jeffrey Donovan doesn’t look anything like John F. Kennedy, but Woody Harrelson (“Cheers” and “Hunger Games”) is entirely believable as JFK’s frustrated Vice President and then abrupt occupant of the Oval Office. The Dallas assassination scenes and depictions of Johnson’s rise to power are colorful and realistic. Interestingly, the villain in the film is Bobby Kennedy, who comes across as a self-serving and grudge-obsessed political little brother.
The hugely stirring plus to this movie is its chilling portrayal of the entrenched racism in the nation during the 1960s. Richard Jenkins plays Senator Russell, a bigoted Democrat determined to block the Civil Rights Bill from ever becoming law. The climactic scene is where he scoots his chair close to the President’s, lowers his voice so the maid and other African-American staff won’t hear, and then says: “Look, Mr. President. We do things a certain way here in the South; it’s always been this way, it always will. I’ll fight for our way of life with the last breath in my body. And don’t anybody tell us there’s one damn thing wrong with how we live our lives.” Johnson, who’s a good old Texas boy himself, and who understands perfectly, puts his face close to the senator’s and says right back in a voice cold with anger: “THEN WHY ARE WE WHISPERING?”
If that great moment doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, then maybe you need to grow a soul or something.