'The Lady Bird Diaries' Review: A 1960s First Lady Speaks – The New York Times

Woman Chook Johnson proves an engrossing narrator to her personal story and that of a roiling nation.

“The Woman Chook Diaries” opens with photographs of a drizzly November day in Fort Price, and the voice of Claudia Alta Johnson. Woman Chook Johnson — a nickname she acquired as little one rising up in Texas — is recounting the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Her cadence is measured, her account riveting. However it’s a sliver of wrenching poetry that distinguishes the reminiscence and hints that the topic of this documentary, directed by Daybreak Porter, will likely be a singular and deeply observant information to her personal — and the nation’s — story. As their automobile sped off — a secret service agent bodily masking her husband, the vice chairman, to guard him — Johnson appears again and sees, “a bundle of pink, like a drift blossom, mendacity within the again seat. It was Mrs. Kennedy mendacity over the president’s physique.”

Shortly after Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in on Air Pressure One, the brand new first woman started recording her ideas. These 123 hours of audiotape grew to become a trove for the journalist Julia E. Sweig’s best-selling biography “Woman Chook Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight,” which makes a persuasive argument that the primary woman was the president’s go-to adviser for good cause. Based mostly on Sweig’s guide in addition to her subsequent podcast, the documentary cements that reappraisal with first-person pressure.

Most of the archival photographs Porter so fluidly employs will likely be acquainted, however they achieve recent vitality and well timed urgency from Johnson’s absorbing narration and her typically stirring observations about Lyndon Johnson, their political partnership, the atmosphere and the 2 occasions she so presciently knew would form us for many years to return: the civil rights motion and the Vietnam Conflict.

The Woman Chook Diaries
Not rated. Working time: 1 hour 40 minutes. In theaters and on Hulu.

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