November 22, 1963. President John F. Kennedy has just been assassinated and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson is now President. One of his first acts as President is to reaffirm the US government’s intention to pass the Civil Rights Act. This Act was drafted while JFK was in office and gives people of all races the same rights, including voting rights, access to education and access to public facilities. However, he faces strong opposition to the bill, especially from within his own party. He will have to use all his political will and cunning to get it through.
User Reviews: While Lyndon Johnson’s presidency was marred by his disastrous Vietnam policy, he was one of our most significant and important presidents in terms of social justice, passing laws that fought racism and pushed against poverty.
In All the Way’s eagerness to show the good of Johnson, it sometimes pushes a little too far. Johnson is portrayed here as a sort of crude angel. Sure, he holds meetings from the toilet, but he single-handedly pushes through a civil rights bill!
I don’t know much about the history of the civil rights bill, but I do know that politics is a vast, messy business that involves a lot of people and that even the noblest of politicians are still consumed with deal making and positioning and power. For me, this makes the LBJ portrayed in the movie a too simplistic. I am more interested with flawed humans whose angels sometimes beat down their demons to earthly saints.
In spite of my objections, though, this is a very entertaining, involving movie. Its main selling point is Bryan Cranston’s amazing portrayal of LBJ. Cranston’s LBJ is shrewd, calculating, noble, and briefly angsty. Cranston creates as much complexity as is possible within a role written with a lack of nuance.
The other performances are also quite solid, particularly Melissa Leo as the sweet but steel-spined Ladybird and Frank Langella as LBJ’s mentor and occasional foe. Anthony Mackie plays a thoughtful MLK, but there is a slightness, both physical and oratorical, that is disappointing.
While I would have liked more complexity, this is a very entertaining movie that is well worth watching.