Jay Roach, producer of Trumbo, Meet the Parents, and the Austin Powers films among others, set his eyes on another political drama with All the Way, where he tries to encapsulate the first couple years of Lyndon Johnson’s administration following the assassination of JFK.
“I grew up with LBJ, I wanted to show him in a new light,” said Roach, who went into his new project trying to show “the psychology, spirituality and every perspective of LBJ.” In All the Way, Johnson, played by Bryan Cranston, is a character filled with depth, shown as a man with conviction who is equal parts ‘Hero, Bully, and President.’.
Roach depicts Johnson as a campaigner of civil rights who constantly collaborated with Martin Luther King Jr. He is simultaneously a bully who tried to rile up votes for his plans by intimidating members of Congress and belittling those near him such as his wife and his future vice president, Hubert Humphrey. Most of all, he is shown as a president trying to find his way after being thrown into the fire shortly after JFK’s death.
“Hopefully, All the Way will remind citizens that someone with experience in politics, is not a bad thing,” Roach said at the event. Roach spent his career making political movies during times of political upturn. His 2008 film Recount focused on the 2000 election, while his 2012 film Game Change focused on Sarah Palin’s candidacy for vice president of the United States. In both films, Roach tried to convey a message to its audience on the nature of political participation and systems. For example, in Game Change he wanted to show how candidates who run on fame and popularity are sometimes not the best people to lead the country.
With the ongoing 2016 election pitting two unlikable candidates against each other, Roach commented, “I believe in the power of the government to do good.” Instead of focusing on the constant scandals of the 2016 election, All the Way helps to show that focusing on the real issues is what we should be doing in this upcoming election.
All the Way is an excellent political commentary through the form of a biopic narrative. Cranston delivers a spot-on performance by being able to embrace the role of Johnson, and convey the small mannerisms that made Johnson himself. For one, “The Johnson Treatment,” where LBJ would stand very close to people to intimidate them, was shown in the movie constantly.
Cranston played the former president in a confident yet fragile state of mind. One scene would focus on his ability to maneuver politically and try to manipulate others to accomplish his goals. Other scenes would show him as a fragile president, unsure of himself, and confiding that he did not want to be “an accidental president.”
All the Way focuses on the first, short term of LBJ up to his reelection in 1964. This decision by Roach is a genius way to prevent the film from focusing too much on the impending Vietnam War. Small scenes with his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, hint at future problems, but the movie stays focused on LBJ’s struggle to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Roach, once again, mastered the political drama, as his made-for-television film All the Way perfectly encapsulated Lyndon Johnson’s first term of office and served as an effective piece of political commentary on the world of politics from the time of Johnson to the upcoming 2016 election.