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Reviews & Ratings for
"John Adams" More at IMDbPro »

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19 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Worthy of Golden Globe, Emmy

10/10
Author: helmuthwilliam from United States
7 April 2008

The only t.v. dramas (historical or otherwise) that I would watch was Masterpiece Theatre because they were mostly British made and classy. Now we have something to rival anything that Masterpiece Theatre put out: John Adams. First, the theme music is first rate slowing building up to a quiet crescendo. Second, the photography is of a theatrical release quality. The set and production values are first rate: you feel as if you are in the scenery and living at that time of our history. The makeup and costumes are historically correct or close to it. Finally, what superb acting by Giamatti and the great Laura Linney and the supporting actors are fine. In fact, I can not find a fault with this mini-series so far.I look forward to watching every Sunday on HBO. I agree with others who say this will win Golden Globe and Emmy Awards. For anyone who says this is boring or lacking bloodshed and violence, I say: "Your ignorance is beneath my contempt" - John Adams, 1777( to Samuel Furlong who told Adams that the 'Declaration of Independency would be the death warrant of the colonies."

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A Joy And An Honour To Watch

10/10
Author: jazz_jeff from Ireland
25 April 2008

Thank you to HBO for the making of this series. Its was a joy to watch. The last part (7th part) was perhaps the hardest to watch. More than once tears were brought to my eyes, in compassion for many of the characters and the conclusion of their life story. What can be said about the making of it? There are not enough words to praise all those involved. Paul Giamatti's and Laura Linney's performances were absolutely astonishing and by the end, had me in tears, I as a man, am not ashamed to say. They were brilliant, class and I will forever be a fan of them. The rest of the cast were like a collection of fine art. Whomever brought them all together, alone deserves an award. Great fine acting on their own and as a group. This series deserves every award possible and more. I agree totally with all the praise that has gone before and will come after. This is a TV series that does HBO and America proud. It should be shown in every class room in the states. Its a work of art...

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.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Slow at times, a few inaccuracies, but definitely worth watching

8/10
Author: mhlong from United States
7 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This has been so much better than monstrous fictions like The Patriot. Before this series, my image of John Adams was William Daniels in 1776 and those pictures of a dumpy, white wigged aging gentleman we usually see in Adam's portrait. It was quite difficult to imagine them as one and the same. And how did he ever get to be President? Finally, here is Paul Giamatti giving depth, emotion, doubt, pride, and more and doing it as a human. And his is just one of several outstanding performances. Laura Linney is absolutely fabulous as Abigail Adams. Her every look, movement, action conveys a thousand words. (and I enjoyed that Tom Wilkenson is Ben Franklin here and Lord Cornwallis in The Patriot) And I cannot say enough about the most attention to detail I've ever seen in an historical piece - the clothes, the surroundings, the living conditions, like the small pox vaccinations. It shows a real care and concern on the part of all involved to present what they are portraying as accurate as it is.

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.

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

A disappointment

6/10
Author: C H (texvanwinkle@gmail.com) from Dallas, TX
2 August 2008

I'm clearly in the minority on this, but as much as I wanted to like this series, I just couldn't. It turned me off so much, in fact, I couldn't even finish it. The Adams in the HBO series just isn't the Adams I've come to know in McCullough's book, the Adams/Jefferson letters, and John/Abigail letters. Some of it is there, certainly, but Giamatti's performance is uniformly petulant, irritable, and whiny. I'm reminded of Dorothy Parker's criticism of Katherine Hepburn: "She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B." Adams certainly could be all three, but was clearly so much more—a more vital, gravitational personality—and you'll never see it—indeed, get even a glimpse of it—in HBO's John Adams. While in an obviously frothier vein, Bill Daniels' forceful portrayal of Adams in the film adaptation of the musical 1776 is far truer to the man described in the book and letters. He, at least, could convincingly be the Adams described by his peers and the match for Abigail, which was never the case for me with Giamatti's shrinking whiner. When he is supposed to be forceful, he merely comes off as a brat. At no point during the HBO series could I bring myself to believe that it was Giamatti's Adams that the other characters were talking about. He simply wasn't believable to me, to the extent that I simply couldn't watch him anymore. I had to retrieve the book and letters from my bookshelf to cleanse my palate and revisit the man of his words.

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 emotions—and again, only a couple of them—rather than thoughts. But then this is modern Hollywood's obsession—excessive but ultimately superficial verisimilitude—which 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 disappointing—aggravating—that 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.

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23 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Drama

9/10
Author: B24 from Arizona
2 April 2008

Historically-based drama, like historical romance, is not history. Having said that, I rate this new television series somewhat high.

I like many other students of history will find fault with historical details that go astray in this presentation. I may also find fault with the manner in which some of the historical facts and characters seem overemphasized at the expense of others. But the key question is whether the story as compelling drama holds up against all that background.

For example, is the character of John Adams as played by Paul Giamatti believable? Does he seem consonant with the storyline? Are the other cast members and episodes structured so as to advance a clear image in our minds of the man and his times? I must confess I have a very different idea of what the real John Adams must have been like. But the words and actions of this drama are in and of themselves generally representative of the written record of history. As an example I cite from the most recent episode the beginnings of antagonism between Adams and Jefferson that would lead (I hope will lead!) to the very dramatic facts of their bitter enmity and eventual reconciliation before they died as old men, coincidentally on the same day. Every schoolchild needs to know what these two men stood for in the formative years of the republic, and how each one like so many politicians today felt occasionally inclined to put vanity ahead of what they truly believed. That is the makings of good drama.

So I can forget from time to time that much of this stuff is being filmed in Hungary, that Breed's Hill was not Bunker Hill, that the accents aren't right (especially undifferentiated as between the South and New England), and that the sun is almost always shining.

Instead, I concentrate more on why there is so much mumbling and whispering. My ears are not as good as they used to be.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Human beings instead of voyeurism

10/10
Author: EloiseForever from Germany
21 September 2012

I usually don't easily rate with 10 stars, but this series is absolutely worth it. I didn't know too too much about the beginnings of the history of the US, but this series taught me a lot.Thanks to a great cast who brought these honorable people back to live and very moving scenes it will stay in my mind and heart.I agree that this should be showed to school children and especially modern day politicians.

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!

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Superbly Exquisite Work of Art, This HBO Series Is Impeccable

10/10
Author: denis888 from Russian Federation
19 August 2012

I love the US history, and among my favorite topics is the American Revolution. Then, there is one man whose great deeds are somehow overshadowed by all-time greats such as Washington, Jefferson or Franklin. This man is John Adams. His fervent character, his single-minded vigor and pursuit of his goals made him a remarkable and controversial figure. His often fiery character and his inability of not keeping his mind, all of these made him enemies quite too often. The HBO series made a great, huge, impeccable job of depicting John Adams and his time. Everything is done here with an utmost accuracy and mesmerizing precision. The casting is another great win - Paul Giamatti as Adams, Laurs Linney as his beloved wife Abigail, David Morse as General Washington to name the few, are all excellent choices. All of the primary and secondary actors do their job well, and how can we forget great Tom Wilkinson as Mr. Franklin. The setting, the soundtrack, the costumes and the unbelievably precise details add it all to the utter pleasure of watching this awesome serial. Highly and undoubtedly recommended

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Simply amazing

10/10
Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
4 October 2011

I have seen many exceptional series, but few lately have been as so as this, John Adams. There is so much attention to detail here, the whole of John Adams is exquisitely photographed and is advantaged further by authentic period recreation and costuming. John Adams also has realistic atmosphere, something that some of the best period drama series(such as North and South, Little Dorritt, Bleak House and The Crimson Petal and the White) excel at.

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

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Paul Giamatti is Electrifying as the Rotund Little Man Who Became the Unlikeliest of America's Founding Fathers

10/10
Author: classicalsteve from Oakland, CA
2 May 2010

I doubt the likes of John Adams could ever win a senatorial seat today. The presidency would be absolutely out of the question. At best, he would be a behind-the-scenes intellectual, akin to a David Axelrod or a David Plouffe, guiding tough decisions but allowing a much more glamorous candidate to make the speeches and sign the autographs. In short, John Adams could not have been president in the late 20th and early 21st centuries because of his looks and temperament.

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.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

One of the best miniseries ever made.....

10/10
Author: Maddyclassicfilms from United Kingdom
8 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I rented this out a few weeks ago and was gripped from start to finish unable to stop watching.John Adams tells the remarkable true story of the second man to be the President of the United States and how the founding fathers began the country the world knows today.

John Adams(Paul Giamatti)is a lawyer turned politician in the 1700's and we follow his struggle to become a respected and admired man and we see how he eventually assumes high office.

Being British I'm fascinated by American history but didn't know too much about how the US began after watching this I'm much better informed and feel I have lived the experience as they did.Such is the power and accuracy of this beautiful series.

The highlight of John Adams though is the famous relationship between John and his loving wife Abigail(Laura Linney)she is his anchor, conscience and is more than just his wife and lover but is his best friend as well.The scenes between these two are my favorites in the entire series,so raw,honest and heartbreakingly sad at times.

She 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 unending love for one another.These letters have survived and many I believe are included here.

The costumes,mannerisms,sets and way of speaking are all accurate to the time and add to the authentic feel of the whole thing.Also starring Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefforson 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".

This is more than just a biography of one man and his family it's a fascinating look at a certain time period and shows the hardship and benefits of life back then and how people coped with not very much to live on.Made with a lot of care and attention paid to the tiniest of details this is a TV production that deserves a great deal of attention,moving,interesting and well acted this is good look at one mans contributions to history and a way of life that many now take for granted.

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