‘All the Way’ adapts play



In this image released by HBO, Bryan Cranston portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson in a scene from, “All the Way,” premiering Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on HBO. (Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO via AP)

Fabian Brims, Staff Writer

Last weekend the cable channel HBO broadcasted Jay Roach’s new movie ‘All the Way’ with Brian Cranston. It is an adaptation of the play with the same name, written by Robert Schenkkan, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie. It’s about Lyndon B. Johnson’s fight for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Schenkkan’s play premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2012 and received positive reviews. Two years later it opened on Broadway in New York and featured Brian Cranston in a tour-de-force performance as LBJ. He went on to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a

Leading Actor in a Play. The play itself was also honored in the top category and then toured through theaters all over the country in the following year. It was also shown in Houston’s newly restored Alley Theater. Now another year later, the story reaches a greater audience after being adapted for the screen.

Jay Roach is mostly known for his comedy movies like ‘Meet the Parents’ or the ‘Austin Powers’ trilogy. However, in the last presidential election years he also directed political dramas for HBO. In 2008 ‘Recount’ depicted the Bush election in 2000; in 2008 he directed ‘Game Change’, a movie about the candidacy of Sarah Palin for Vice Presidency; and now in 2016 ‘All the Way’.

Also, last year he made ‘Trumbo’ for which Brian Cranston was nominated for the Oscar as Best Actor in the title role. ‘All the Way’ reunites Roach with HBO and Cranston to adapt the successful play for television with Stephen Spielberg’s company Amblin Entertainment producing it.

The movie, as well as the play, starts right after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. After being sworn into office, LBJ (Cranston) starts to push for a civil rights act to honor the late president Kennedy, who was in favor of such a law.

He is torn between his friends and colleagues from the south and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. (Anthony Mackie) with his wife Lady Bird Johnson (Melissa Leo) being his strongest supporter. When three civil rights workers get killed by Klansmen in Mississippi, the situation starts to escalate and LBJ needs to exercise the full range of his political abilities to solve the dangerous situation.

In supporting roles, we can also see Bradley Whitford as Hubert Humphrey, Steven Root as J. Edgar Hoover and Frank Langella as Sen. Richard Russell, Jr. The movie can be described as a mix of ‘The West Wing’, a political drama series that also starred Whitford; ‘Mad Men’, everybody’s favorite time travel to the 1960’s; and the 1988 movie ‘Mississippi Burning’, which is loosely based on the murder of the three Civil rights workers.

The actors do a fantastic job bringing these historical figures to the screen, especially Cranston, who adds another milestone to his career. I’m sure he will pair his Tony award with another Emmy or Golden Globe.

Yet it’s not a one-man-show: Melissa Leo and Anthony Mackie also deliver some of their best performances to date. The directing is on point and I hope to see more dramatic movies from Jay Roach in the future. The authenticity of sets and costumes is at the same top level as Mad Men, but the true heroes of this movie are the make-up-artists.

It is amazing how Cranston transforms into LBJ. He had to sit up to two hours in the make up truck and wears more latex in his face than you’d think; yet you can still recognize Cranston in LBJ’s face. However, Bradley Whitford as Hubert Humphrey was even harder to recognize, so good was the transformation into LBJ’s Vice President.

It is an important movie about a very important time in this country and especially now, when presidential candidates prefer to go after Muslims or Mexicans, rather than uniting the country. It is clear that now, more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act has passed, there is still a lot of work to do. That requires a strong and smooth statesman and a true leader like Lyndon B. Johnson.

All the Way (2016); Directed by Jay Roach; written by Robert Schenkkan; with Brian Cranston, Anthony Mackie, Melissa Leo, Bradley Whitford and Frank Langella; available on HBO Go & HBO Now

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