John Adams (2008)
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The cast is stellar. Giamatti is a great actor and he brings John Adams to life. Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin is one of the highlights. The realism of the time frame is brought to life like few movies have done; accuracy in costumes, to architecture, and locational shots.
This is a truly moving piece, and a must watch for fans of history, and those with a appreciation of great cinema regardless.
The challenge of the series was to breathe life into those stories and lives we know so well. The filmmakers worked closely to David McCullough's outstanding book for the details, along with the human side of the story captured in the voluminous correspondence of John and Abigail Adams. The political, military, and personal issues were all thoughtfully brought to life. The design values of the film were also superb. Nothing looked stagy or stilted in the sets and costumes, which provided an unusual authenticity of period style for television drama. With each appearance of George Washington (David Morse), it was hard not to gasp due to the believability of his character.
The drama of America's breaking from England for independence was an improbable story and one dependent on the courage and idealism of the individuals portrayed in this film. The personalities of these great figures make this program an accessible and rewarding experience for the entire family. For the patient viewer, what emerges from the John Adams miniseries is not merely a history lesson, but a drama with great relevance today. Simply put, we need more people in our country right now just like John and Abigail Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Knox, and, above all, the ordinary human beings heroically portrayed in this fine film!
Seldom we find this same quality in the performance from the individual actors. More often we do recognize the difficulty, uniqueness and the gift that theater performances bring to their audiences. The gift of the individual performer is bared to the audience, where the audience feels the essence of the character transported by its performer.
The John Adams production has accomplished this by giving these performers the opportunity to display the essence of their talents. It is evident they gave their all.
The professionalism and talent of the entire production is of the highest quality, the realism and fidelity to the times is very impressive.
The attention to details, the very talented cast and the unique ability of Tom Hooper to capture what words cannot describe, has made this production a true work of art.
Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney professional eclectic careers are and will continue to define them as great actors. Both have reached for the best performance have not only achieved it but have surpassed it.
Paul and Laura do not only deserve the Oscar but they should be recognized has to have given their all, in an effort to help the audience better understand the complex multi-dimensional and existential realities of two historical individuals that have truly shaped the genesis and future the United States of America.
Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney have with their performance added the unique and the exceptional to an already fine production.
A truly multi-dimensional performance. Thank you Paul - thank you Laura for a rare gift.
Giamatti and Linney are giving the performances of their careers - the Emmys and Golden Globes are already in the bag. I find their relationship to each other and their playing of the reality of late 18th century life astonishing.
I think that Giamatti, Linney, Wilkinson, Dillane, Morse et al are turning these people (whom we tend to think of as stiff, formal oil-paintings or faces on currency) into fleshed-out, three dimensional human beings. In the fourth episode alone we had Giamatti's heart-breaking reaction to the news of Britain's defeat; the reunion scene between John and Abigail when they have no idea how to approach each other after so many years apart; Giamatti's first scene in the English court which captured both the magnitude and the discomfort of a moment that had never occurred before in history; and the moment between Adams and Washington after the oath of office where we realize that only THEN, in that moment, had the goal really been achieved.
This series is full of small, intensely honest moments moments of real people caught up in a storm of their own creation but one that they have no way of being prepared for - and these moments, for me, are adding up to a very satisfying whole. In fact, it's made me rethink the whole Revolutionary era but then, so did David McCullough's book.
Not since Iron Jawed Angels have I seen a show based on historical events that is this inspired, moving, and both emotionally and intellectually riveting - it felt like I was taking a trip through history in a time capsule, genuinely being there in those early colonial days, when the idea of independence from Great Britain was controversial, revolutionary and shrouded in fear. But the core of the series is not political - it's the story of John and Abigail (I'm on a first-name basis with them now) and how they stayed together, raised a family and survived during this most trying time in a young country's history.
Giamatti and Linney bring extraordinary passion and complete believability to their roles, but the whole cast is brilliant here, the stand outs (from the first two episodes, besides Linney and Giamatti) being David Morse as George Washington, Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Dillane as Tom Jefferson and Damages' Zeljko Ivanek - who for some reason is not mentioned in the credits! - as John Dickinson, Adams' staunchest congressional opponent on the subject of independence. The scenes in Philadelphia, where the reps from all 13 colonies meet to hash out the situation, are magnificently compelling - you feel like you're there with them, seeing from the inside how our country actually came to be.
There's a great scene where John and Ben are reading Thomas' first draft of The Declaration of Independence (which John begged Thomas to write, saying that he himself was "obnoxious, suspect and unpopular" while Thomas was far more eloquent with his pen); they're editing it, beginning with the first line. This scene really evokes the feeling of how our independence came to be - it was forged by necessity, by these men who were literally flying blind, by the seat of their pants.
4/21/08 ~ Part 7, Peacefield: poetic, devastating and profoundly sad, the finale, which aired last night. Brilliant how they kept the focus on John and Abigail's relationship through all the political turbulence that had taken place in their lifetimes. At the end I felt like I had lived their lives along with them. Paul Giamatti's and Laura Linney's performances - TOWERING. Cannot heap the superlatives on this show high enough. A brilliant concept, breath-takingly realized in every aspect.
For as much as I thought I knew about John Adams I'm finding I didn't know him at all. Pay close attention to the courtroom scenes and thank the stars that court room behavior has evolved since then. I'd hate to have to testify in an environment like that.
Watch this series and hope that some of our politicians today are watching too. I would hope that it might spark something inside them that has been buried in todays hypocrites
Paul Giamatti captivates viewers with a super performance. He has really given me a new respect for John Adams. Laura Linney plays Abigail Adams beautifully. She is wise and kind, but also is franc and honest.
The first two episodes are so incredibly accurate and indulging, that I feel like I am in the center of the American Revolution.
The script is brilliant. People speak the way colonials spoke. Adams lines just get better as the show goes on. HBO has truly made a brilliant masterpiece. A must watch for any history buff.
Further comment: Such great men and equally great thinkers are lost today on many of the youth. The likes of them will perhaps be never seen again. May they rest easy within the soil of America, for the freedoms they brought to their country they loved so much.
They could teach today's politicians a lesson or two on truth, sticking to upholding true meaning of liberty and the rule of law. I fear however they would not be impressed by the actions of those that this day, April 25th 2008, that stand within the blocks of the White House. History will also be their judge and it will not treat our present day leaders so kindly and deservedly so. Those that have now gone before at the foundation of the country, were clearly better upstanding citizens.
What is now is Congress and the White House is just a bad shadow of once true and honest men (and women) that passed away with the founding of America.
May they, the founding fathers (and mothers) rest in peace.
What especially positively impressed me was the nearly complete lack of violence compared to oh so many other (american!) productions.We all know how terrible things can be, so there is no need to show it over and over again and satisfy merely voyeuristic wishes.Voices, quotes, Face expressions,subtle gestures should be enough for any human being to understand the message of this movie.VERY WELL DONE!
John Adams has been one of the most enigmatic of figures of the early days of the founding of the United States of America. Part of this ambiguity was cleared up with the book by David McCullough, "John Adams". This HBO miniseries, maybe the best made-for-cable production since "Band of Brothers", chronicles the legal and political career of one of the more complex of America's Founding Fathers; it follows much of McCullough's book. McCullough spent hundreds of hours of research, particularly at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, pouring over the myriad of surviving primary sources from the mid-18th century. John Adams, unlike Thomas Jefferson, is one of the most well-documented of American historical figures. Much of what we know about the circumstances regarding the War of Independence, the Continental Congress, and other incidents is because of the preservation of these documents by the Adams family for the last two and one half centuries. (By contrast, Jefferson destroyed many of his own documents.) Much of the series comes from these primary sources sifted through by McCullough.
John Adams was nothing like a Jack Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan, a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama. He was short, stocky, unattractive, and had a pug nose, although he had penetrating eyes. During congressional debates he was once referred to as "His Rotundity". He could be overbearing, argumentative, occasionally rude and often big-mouthed. He could not tolerate incompetence and stupidity, at least as he defined it, and he had a bad habit of tactlessly letting people know. And yet, he was one of the titans of legal and political intellectualism in the American Colonies and one of the key figures that enabled their secession from Great Britain. During the Enlightenment of the 18th century, intellectualism and scholarship was more highly valued among leaders in America than it is today, and John Adams made up for his other shortcomings in spades. (Alas, in modern times, American politicians are often elected because of charisma, charm and movie-star qualities rather than intellectualism.) Therefore, no other actor in the business could play him as well as Paul Giamatti. As Adams was no Kennedy, neither is Giamatti which made him perfect for the part. Only the finest actor lacking star power could handle such a role. His performance is one of the best of an American historical figure, on par with Denzel Washington who portrayed Malcolm X. High marks also for Laura Linney as Abigail Adams. Both won Emmys for their performances.
The series begins with the tides of animosity and distrust that began stirring between the American Colonists and their British rulers in the 1760's and early 1770's. Although the acts of the so-called Sons of Liberty were already escalating growing tensions, Adams was not the first to sign on to the idea of secession, although his cousin Samuel Adams already had. Few Americans know that Adams was involved with the case of the so-called "Boston Massacre" of 1770, in which soldiers fired upon an angry mob that resulted in the deaths of five colonists--not exactly a massacre but that's how it was portrayed. On principle, Adams accepted the case to defend the soldiers who were eventually acquitted. The acquittal did not endear Adams to many of his fellow colonists. It was only later, in part convinced by his cousin Sam Adams, that he agreed to join the cause for independence. The series chronicles his rise in leadership during the debates of the Continental Congress in which he and Ben Franklin advocated secession. He later became ambassador to France along with Franklin to negotiate the French supporting the colonial rebellion.
After the war, he was elected as the first Vice President. Apparently he was quite ambivalent to his office, wondering if having been given the role of Vice President was somewhat of insult, but he would later recognize the honor it was. After Washington retired from public life, Adams was elected for one term as the second President of the United States in 1796, in part because of his crucial role during the War of Independence and his high intellectualism. As President, Adams avoided a war with France that probably saved the American nation, particularly since the United States had almost no defense. Unfortunately, since they were largely ignorant of the state of the military, the citizenry was largely in favor of such a war, and he lost his office to Jefferson in 1800. Later, a correspondence between Adams and Jefferson helps to reconcile their differences. They both died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the new nation.
John Adams may have been the "smartest man in the room", and he had the integrity to go with it. Even though many of his colleagues, particularly Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, thought him insufferable at times, they revered his high intellectualism, and honored him by electing him President of the United States after George Washington. But in some ways, Adams was his own worst enemy, not knowing how to negotiate and debate in a civilized manner without demeaning and degrading his opponents. Politics is the art of negotiation, not just making the best arguments. I liken Adams somewhat to Jimmy Carter who was also highly intelligent but could not always negotiate with his political colleagues. This docudrama helps to reveal the multiple sides of Adams, and hopefully, the importance of what he did, how he did it, and why.
Which is a criticism I have of the writing itself. Such work in a supposedly epic telling, and yet again I find a much more understandable presentation of Adams in the film 1776 than in four hours (so far) of HBO's production. After four episodes I still couldn't perceive a coherent philosophy, and challenge anyone watching it cold to produce one. The production spent far too much time on the minutiae of moments at the expense of a clear depiction of the man himself. Ultimately it was all about emotionsand again, only a couple of themrather than thoughts. But then this is modern Hollywood's obsessionexcessive but ultimately superficial verisimilitudewhich is why its characterizations pale in comparison to the best of the past.
The same problem extends to the production itself. There is a fanatical attention to detail, including superb visual and special effects, but once again at the expense of the story. Rather than simply putting a camera on an actor and letting him act, Adams' director Tom Hooper, like so many of his peers, feels he must "put us in the moment" with hand-held camera work and oblique camera angles, or create an interesting canvas through off-center compositions and muted colors. All he does instead is distract the viewer and draw attention to himself instead of the characters. Oh but for the chance to lock the present generation of directors in a room playing Ford, Huston, Hawks, and Wyler movies non-stop until they finally learn what they clearly never have about storytelling.
I am happy, actually, that so many have enjoyed this series so much, but it's more than disappointingaggravatingthat the John Adams they're given is such a feral dog compared to the force of nature and penetrating mind, vain, stubborn, and obnoxious as it is, that comes through his letters.
Of course, there are problems. The opening moments of Episode 1 should have drawn you in immediately. Unfortunately, I suspect it turned people off. It wasn't until late in 1 and into 2 that if one stuck it out that long, you would start to be drawn in by the characterizations. I wasn't sure I wanted to sit through all 7 episodes, but I'm now going to miss it dearly when it's over in 2 or so weeks.
And there are inaccuracies. Adams came and went several times to Europe, and more of his family accompanied him at times, and I think he was part of a larger delegation. That little bit of disagreement between him and one of his sons who accused him of being a neglectful parent - that is so late 20th century. Especially considering as others have pointed out, a lot of the Continental army regulars were gone from home for years.
But this series puts the most human element I've ever seen into a period when people of that time are viewed larger than life, people we've almost made out to be super-human. Someone wrote that the series was boring. Show me any one's life at the minutiae required to show that person as human, and you'll see boring. Our lives are not a series of highlights and sound bites with fade outs between - there are ups, downs, and a lot of just living, but it's real. And John Adams, thank all those involved, shows it.
The brilliant HBO miniseries "John Adams" gives heart, soul, ambition, foibles, and temperament to these men - Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams, and tells us about who they are, how they lived, their interpersonal relationships, and their goals for our country.
Meticulously cast, historically researched, and impeccably costumed, we are given a look at the personal and professional life of John Adams (Paul Giametti), his wife Abigail (Laura Linney), and his children. Because of his work for the country, the family was asked to make sacrifices as he had to travel and stay away for long periods of time. It fell to Abigail to take care of the farm and their family.
We get a good look at the hardships people endured in those days, including the crudeness of the medicine, the difficulty in communication - no Internet, no phone, only letters that had to travel great distances.
Giametti and Linney -- there isn't much to say because there aren't sufficient adjectives. Brilliant, mesmerizing, detailed, flawless, emotional performances - all those words are trite. The beauty of the casting is one of the things that makes this miniseries great, and these two actors are at the top. Stephen Dillane as Jefferson, David Morse as Washington, Tom Wilkinson as Franklin, Rufus Sewell as Alexander Hamilton, are all sheer perfection. But none are asked to do what Giametti and Linney did -- Giametti had two days off in six months, apparently -- Adams lived until he was 90, and we saw him do it! This is a breathtaking miniseries that vividly shows the language, the way of life, the hardships, and the political arguments of the era, and puts the experiences into breathing human beings. I am so glad that I saw this, and thrilled that the actors and series received so many awards and nominations. Painstakingly directed by Tom Hooper, and written by historian David McCullough and Kirk Ellis, "John Adams" is a landmark in television and not to be missed.
My most recent experience was watching on tape the television series on John Adams, based on the the David McCullough biography which I had read a few years ago.
My general impression is that the two principal actors, Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney (as John Adams and his influential wife, Abigail) gave a different rendition of the personalities of the main characters from what I had imagined them to be as I read the book. They became much more one-dimensional, for example.
Their personal communication style, as rendered by the actors, became an irritant to me. Adams way of speaking made him appear as shifty, untrustworthy and visionless : an 18th Century Dick Cheney. Abigail, as a condescending know-it-all.
Now that I have seen the movie, I have find it hard to return to my previous impression of a complex man married to a very strong and intelligent woman.
One thing is certain: 'John Adams' is a well made, ambitious and detailed afresco depicting 50 years of American (and not only) history at the turn between the 18th and 19th centuries. The filmmakers go to great lengths trying to faithfully reconstruct this period, and mostly succeed in doing so wonderfully. I find this to be by far the biggest accomplishment of this mini series; You really feel the atmosphere of the times, the poor hygiene levels, the sicknesses, the dirt, the poverty. You can see how feeble human life itself was, how death was close at hand at all times. Medicine was almost non-existent, some scenes concerning medical interventions are so real they are both visually and intellectually so shocking I was moved by them. In other, you also have a wonderful portrayal of the decadence of 'old Europe' in starch comparison to for the times (very) modern American pragmatism portrayed through Adams himself.
The series is populated with many historical characters, most of which spring to life not only thanks to good acting, but also because of a good screenplay and excellent dialog. I enjoyed the fact that the language used was that of the times, and not a modern version of the same. There is however, one major problem, one that prevents this series from being great, and that is the casting of John Adams. Notwithstanding his trying hard, Paul Giamatti "just doesn't feel right" as John Adams. This is a major problem for this otherwise almost impeccable production, which I highly recommend watching in any case.
I cannot comment on the historic authenticity. However, the sets, sound, makeup, CGI, storyline and dialogue are outstanding. All the actors are excellent and it's invidious to single any one out. But Giamatti and Linney stand out with incredible, intimate and emotional performances.
So why the "agonising"? Quite simply, although the cinematography and lighting are technically perfect, someone somewhere - presumably the director in consultation with the producers - thought that a hand-held camera and the odd tilted horizon would add something to the story.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
There are two valid excuses for a steadycam shot: if it's physically impossible to shoot it with a crane, and to give the impression of a grabbed shot in, say, a war zone.
Unfortunately, too many otherwise first class directors have followed a craze that emerged a few years back, and appear to think that unsteady shots add to the experience. They don't: all they do is make you think about the mechanics of the filming and look for the exit. And tilting the camera for no good reason is just plain effete.
So: eight out of ten. A shame, because without the trendy camera-work I would give John Adams ten.
The music enhances the mood of each scene very well too, the writing is full of grit, poignancy and intelligence, and the story is both absorbing and interesting. The characters intrigue with enough depth to them to make them not fall into caricature. The acting is wonderful with no weak link. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are exceptional, and they are given top notch support from all particularly the always reliable Tom Wilkinson and David Morse.
All in all, simply amazing is really all I have to say about John Adams. 10/10 Bethany Cox
John Adams(Paul Giamatti)is a lawyer in America in the 1700's and we follow his struggle to help America gain independence from Britain and see how he eventually becomes America's second President.
The highlight of the series is the relationship between John and his loving wife Abigail(Laura Linney). Abigail is John's anchor,conscience and is his best friend as well.The scenes between these two are so raw,honest and heart breaking at times.
Abigail was left alone much of the time while John travelled on state business but the two wrote such beautiful letters to each other declaring their love for one another.
The series also stars Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson the man behind the declaration of independence and a lifelong friend of John's, David Morse as the first man to lead America George Washington,Tom Wilkinson as the legendary Benjamin Franklin and Sarah Polley as Adam's ill fated daughter Abigail"Nabby". The entire cast give superb performances but this is Paul Giamatti's show for sure, he is absolutely outstanding giving one of his best performances.
This is more than just a biography of one man and his family, it's a fascinating look at that time period and shows the hardship of life back then and how people coped with not very much to live on.
This series deserves a great deal of attention and is a good look at the contributions to history of one man and the start of a way of life that many now take for granted.
Upon seeing the series i would say that this series is superb on all aspects, from the visuals to the story. The series played out well and there was magic flow thru all of it because of the marvelous acting and casting and visuals. Somehow i wish this series would have been longer because you really grow attached to the characters just after a few shows...
The only caveat is that the end shows feel a little bit rushed on the time-line that these persons lived in and you are left filling the time-line voids and try to figure out what happened to some characters in the series but then again it is absolutely engrossing to watch this show.
A glorious effort at trying to show us history for the modern men and women of this generation.