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Customer Review

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect 4th of July 'Birthday Present'!, July 4, 2008
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This review is from: John Adams (DVD)
Until I viewed the HBO Miniseries, "John Adams", my impression of the American patriot had been based largely on William Daniels' brilliant, if preening rooster, in the musical, "1776". After viewing Paul Giamatti's fabulous, more grounded portrayal, I must admit THIS is by far the best Adams you'll ever find! Proud, yet insecure, lacking the sophistication of Jefferson, stature of Washington, or urbane wittiness of Franklin, Giamatti's Adams is occasionally coarse, frequently headstrong, but makes up, in fervor, what he lacks in tact. Unlike Daniels' 'take', he is certainly no genius (his thinly-veiled envy of Jefferson and Franklin provides some of the story's conflict, and humor), but he is an impassioned activist, a 'doer' without whom America would never have been born. The first third of the series, covering the Revolutionary War, 'reinvents' Adams for modern audiences, and is both fascinating, and quite moving.

Based on David McCullough's celebrated biography, and filmed largely in eastern Europe and Williamsburg, VA, the series wonderfully captures the 'look' of the times, from untamed wilderness, to cities both old and grimy, and young and dynamic. In this tableau, rough-hewn Americans contrast sharply with coiffed Europeans, providing a nice visualization of the difference between the Old and New Worlds, and justification for the existence of a new nation. In the entertaining 'middle' segments of the production, Adams is thrust into European society, a bull in a china shop who embarrasses both Franklin (a terrific Tom Wilkinson, looking eerily like the legendary Founding Father), and later, Jefferson (Stephen Dillane, who lacks Jefferson's height and charisma, but is quite good). Despite the loyal friendship of George Washington (a dead-on, very effective David Morse), Adams proves a disastrous diplomat and Vice President, and is stymied as President by a near-fanatical fear of terrorism (shades of 9/11 and today!)

Perhaps the series' finest moments come when Adams leaves office, and tries to adjust to life as a farmer and forgotten 'hero of the revolution'. Here, Laura Linney's contribution, as Abigail Adams, truly shines; a loving, feisty, politically savvy woman, she now ages gracefully as a supportive wife and heartsick mother (particularly during the illness and death of daughter 'Nabby', portrayed sensitively by Sarah Polley). Linney and Giamatti's scenes together, terrific throughout the series, are especially poignant as their lives draw to a close. Another plus in these chapters is the renewal of the Adams/Jefferson friendship, through correspondence, as two old warhorses face a changing world and mortality, together (both would die on the same day, July 4th, fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence...a touch no author would dare invent, but true!)

"John Adams" is an epic achievement, and the perfect way to celebrate Independence Day, any time you pop it into your DVD player!
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 4, 2008 9:27:47 PM PDT
The "brilliant, if preening rooster, in the musical, "'1776'" portrayal of John Adams was brilliantly acted by William Daniels, not William Devane. However, I whole-heartedly agree with the rest of your comments on this mini-series. It was absolutely brilliant.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 5, 2008 1:33:30 PM PDT
You're absolutely right! My error, which I'll correct, posthaste!

Posted on Jul 8, 2008 9:45:09 AM PDT
Superb review. Appreciated your insightful take on the the 'Best Actors -- especially that of the 'leading lady' who (I think) stole the show:

"Laura Linney's contribution, as Abigail Adams, truly shines; a loving, feisty, politically savvy woman, she now ages gracefully as a supportive wife and heartsick mother (particularly during the illness and death of daughter 'Nabby', portrayed sensitively by Sarah Polley). Linney and Giamatti's scenes together, terrific throughout the series, are especially poignant as their lives draw to a close."

Left a "helpful" (hope my vote shows up for a change!) Just had to say, "Kudos, Benjamin J. Burgraff" for yet another fine review!

Mark Blackburn
Winnipeg Canada

Posted on Sep 22, 2015 9:54:51 AM PDT
1776'" portrayal of John Adams was brilliantly acted by William Daniels, not William Devane.

a correction of something that was already correct.
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