John Adams [Blu-ray]
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John Adams (BD)
John Adams is a sprawling HBO miniseries event that depicts the extraordinary life and times of one of Americas least understood, and most underestimated, founding fathers: the second President of the United States, John Adams. Starring Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man, HBOs American Spendor) in the title role and Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me, Kinsey) as Adams devoted wife Abigail, John Adams chronicles the extraordinary life journey of one of the primary shapers of our independence and government, whose legacy has often been eclipsed by more flamboyant contemporaries like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. Set against the backdrop of a nations stormy birth, this sweeping miniseries is a moving love story, a gripping narrative, and a fascinating study of human nature. Above all, at a time when the nation is increasingly polarized politically, this story celebrates the shared values of liberty and freedom upon which this country was built.]]>
Who's Who in History: character biographies
David McCullough: Painting with Words: A rare and personal glimpse at the life and works of author David McCullough
The Making of John Adams featurette
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Top Customer Reviews
Paul Giamatti's performance in the title role is much in dispute as he, like many other actors, seems to play himself as much as his character. He turns from a loving father to the lawyer and representative who sometimes looks apoplectic rather than just an angry or fiery patriot. Much to his credit, I felt the John Adams of later years on subsequent episodes was extremely well-acted.
Abigail Adams is played by Laura Linney, and her performance is superb and not the least in dispute. From the first moment, she is thoroughly credible as the vivacious lover, friend, confidante, advisor, and wife of John Adams. Her acting here should garner her an Emmy. The actors protraying Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson turned in stellar performances.
Many complain that this did not follow the book of the same title, and was not true to history exactly. To the first query the answer is what does? To the second, it is a well-written and well-acted drama that deserves our attention.
The series begins with the Boston Massacre and John Adams representing the British soldiers. With his successful defense, he is noticed by the Crown, as well as the colonials who are striving for independence. Both want his services. Adams chooses independence over the king and we see him as representative, foreign minister, beggar and borrower, ambassador, vice president, and president. His one anchor through these assignments and occupations in the struggle of a new nation is his love and respect for his wife, Abigail whom he always refers to as "my friend." The letters between the two is one constant that sustains their love through loneliness of separation, as Mr. Adams is more often away than home.
Particularly touching is the drab existence they share in an uncompleted White House, the grief John Adams suffers from the loss of his Abigail, his renewed friendship with Thomas Jefferson, and his dying belief that his friend survives him, even though Jefferson died three hours earlier. In one of the ironies of our history, both men died exactly fifty years to the day, after July 4, 1776.
This story ends with both Abigail and John Adams quoting letters of their love for each other and a young nation, as they ascend a hill together and look out over their country. They hope that they will be able to see future generations of Americans, from heaven, and wonder if they will deserve the sacrifice and freedom they have given them.
So do I.
The series insists on focusing on Adams' lows. It seems the writers took all the depressing elements of McCullough's book, which were few, and magnified those to center stage. For instance, John Adams' alcoholic son Charles has a major part in the series, but played a relatively minor role in the book. The mudslinging between Jefferson and Adams in Adams' second election for president was jettisoned for the Charles Adams storyline. Also, Adams, presented by McCullough, was a good natured man with a self-deprecating sense of humor. In the series he seems to live in misery.
They also took scenes that were generally upbeat and made them darker. When Adams meets King George III (in my opinion the climax of the story - or at least the first half of the story) in the book, the King is very polite and friendly (much like his portrayal in The Madness of King George III). He smiled a lot and made Adams more comfortable, if not less in awe. In the series the King is just plain weird. I can only guess the filmmakers were hinting at King George's future illness/madness. It's almost as if this series is based on another book about John Adams - a darker book. This series really missed the tone of McCullough's great book.
Still -- divorcing myself from the book -- I find this series is well-made and held my attention. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are very good. My advice would be to watch the series first, then read the book for a much more uplifting story.