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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When the final episode ended, I cried. Not because it was sad (it was);
not because it was emotional (it was); not because it gave you a
swelling of pride (it did)... No. I cried because it was over.
The highest compliment I can give any story, be it a book or a movie, is that I don't want it to end. This was the case with John Adams. A show that I had high expectations for - and that it met easily. I wished it was 14 episodes instead of 7.
This was nothing short of a triumph. The production and cast were outstanding. Some people would argue that Paul Giamatti was miscast. And those people would be wrong. This is arguably the finest work he has ever done, and that's saying a lot because he has done some great, great acting.
There is only one complaint that I can make and that is that the story peaked too early. That zenith is reached at the beginning of Episode 4 during the reunion of John and Abigail after they had spent so much time apart. This was quite possibly the most touching love scene I have ever seen.
That was the heart and soul of the series. John and Abigail's unconditional and unbreakable love was the anchor that held all the turmoil and upheaval in place. Weaker men and women may have crumbled under such pressure, but they survived. The admiration and dedication they had for one another came through with a blinding radiance. It was not and over the top, grandiose, passionate-kiss-in-the-rainstorm kind of love story, but one that was far more subtle and real. I can't think of anything more beautiful and romantic and loving as the simple act of John calling Abigail "my friend."
What historical inaccuracies there may be are irrelevant. Even if only half of this story is true to history, this man deserves far more credit and respect than we have given him. So HBO turned a bloodless ship to ship encounter into an action sequence... big deal. The spirit of the moment is what matters, because we can never truly know what happened at every moment or know every thought and emotion.
And what emotion there was. Because if this show, this story, can make even a cold blooded cynic like me feel patriotic, then it sure as hell has done something right.
This is one of the finest television events that I have viewed. It is
so powerful that we can watch something of value - something that we
can view with wild anticipation. If we could see other events like this
-- founding father by founding father - we should only be so lucky.
Paul Giamatti is masterful. Morse as George Washington is unbelievable. Wilkinson as Ben Franklin makes me understand Franklin's depths and flaws. I am not sure how we can continue to teach our children only the highlights without the lowlights. This production shows us the process of making our country, warts and all. I applaud the producers, the cast and the director.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First I would like to address the criticism of the first two episodes,
specifically about the so-called plodding, odd nature of the first
episode. Like any book, there must be an establishment of characters
and a base by which to work from- nobody can be expected to understand
a story unless those involved are understood. The Boston Massacre was a
sudden jolt of reality to Adams, and his relationship with friends and
family are vital pieces which must be explained. The camera work is
used to emphasize the dramatic forces at work, the tension of having to
choose between what is right and what is popular. The Boston Tea Party
was not shown because obviously it is more important to explain WHY the
colonists were so upset rather than every event that occurred, and in
one scene we would never know who John Hancock really is unless the
conflict with the official is shown, and his interests in seeing
America independent down the road.
The acting by Paul Giamatti is truly outstanding- the subtleties of the man himself are shown with careful precision rather than overdone acting, which is all the more important when faced with other giants of American history like Franklin, Washington, or Jefferson. Whoever was involved in choosing this cast has really earned themselves many, many awards, because from what I have seen the rest of the series can only get better when more action is added.
To add about Pennsylvania's role in the Congress- what most people are not aware of is that Pennsylvania was a large roadblock when it came to defending the colonies from native rebellions and wars- they constantly ignored cries for help from fellow colonies and even from their own people in the western part of Pennsylvania. Franklin had failed to bring together a common defense in Albany, mainly due to his own fellow constituents. This was the primary reason why the tension between the New England colonies and Pennsylvania ran high, and why John Adams went after the Pennsylvania representatives out of sheer frustration, and why Benjamin Franklin understood both points of view and reacted the way he did. Adams felt that once again Pennsylvania was hiding at the rear as they did during the earlier part of the century.
I am thrilled that historical drama, well done, has made a return to television in the form of episodes. I would highly recommend this production, even only seeing Episodes 1 and 2.
John Adams is an event, an outstanding production in every way but one -- the camera work. There is way too much use of hand held camera shots and often arty framing of scenes that distracts from the drama that is unfolding. This type of thing pulls one out of the performances. This is the kind of thing one comes to expect from old 8mm home movies or people that do not know how to use their video camera -- not from professional cinematographers working on one of the most expensive TV series of all time. Otherwise the series is magnificent. From time to time there is framing of people who are almost absent from the frame. Some great moments are marred by having the camera behind curtains peaking out at the actors, as if the camera was hidden and trying to capture forbidden incidents without being detected. I'll never understand why the director and producers allowed this kind of thing to mar an otherwise flawless presentation!
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 morea more vital, gravitational
personalityand you'll never see itindeed, get even a glimpse of itin
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
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.
Very few of our nation's forefathers seem very human to us today.
Important men, yes, but with the exception of maybe Benjamin Franklin,
he of the smiling face and the twinkle in his eye, we don't connect
with any of them.
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.
As others have already noted, this miniseries should become required viewing in every American History class in the country. I read McCullough's bio of Adams about a year ago and found the miniseries to be endlessly impressive. Giamatti portrays Adams as a full human being rather than an historical caricature. Laura Linney makes you feel the inner strength of Abigail Adams. The other actors in major roles all perform wonderfully. I just wish they'd gone a few more episodes, giving more space to some things that were glossed over (like the whole War of 1812). Multiple Emmy's for HBO are certain, and for several of the cast. With the short shrift the Founding Fathers are given these days, portrayed either as horrible slave-owning Old White Men or else unapproachable god-like figures of American legend, this very humanizing look at the times and especially of Adams himself are a breath of fresh air. Can't say enough good things about this one. It's going to do well on DVD.
This series is truly amazing. The actors are very talented and
believable, and the whole is a well-done and remarkable representation
of John Adams' life. I always get bored out of my mind by the flat,
matter-of-fact nature of textbooks and documentaries. Although I prefer
films that show the actual war more than the politics, this film is
what got me hooked on the Revolution, and history in general, and I
would strongly recommend it to anybody who is interested in that kind
I dropped one star because there are a number of historical inaccuracies throughout the series--pretty much all minor details, and for the most part, the plot is authentic, but it is something that matters a great deal to me with portrayals of history. I got the David McCullough's book after I watched this and I would highly suggest reading it as well if you really want to learn the details more accurately. Also, some parts of Adams' life feel like they were rushed/skipped over, but considering that they have to go through his whole life in seven episodes, they do a good job covering the important aspects. Other than that, I can find nothing to criticize. There is much use of silence throughout the film, which works wonders to inspire the mood of the various scenes, but when the score is played in the background, it emphasizes the moment dramatically. The title track, especially, is wonderfully patriotic and takes my breath away.
Again, I absolutely recommend watching this if you are interested in history and America.
This series was so good I am having difficulty finding words to do it
justice. I have only faded memories of John Adams from my high school
history class almost 50 years ago. The teacher spoke well of John Adams
but I didn't really remember why. This series has not only reminded me
but it has also provided me great detail as to how great a part John
Adams played in the birth of America. This was so educational and
enlightening for me. The more I learn of the men and women who created
this county out of nothing the greater is my admiration for them. They
made hard choices, they were willing to risk life and limb for the
chance to see a dream come true. I am amazed by how well they sorted
out the constitution and the bill of rights with the intent of
preventing problems for those who would follow. Their wisdom and the
ability to foresee conflict is incredible. We owe them a great deal of
gratitude and respect.
I wish this was required viewing for all high school students.
The producers' self-evident intent with this series was to offer a
nuanced look at a period of US history which has been so glorified as
to occult anything controversial.
Here, the tug of war between Adams and Jefferson and their respective factions is well illustrated, complete with petty recriminations and back-stabbing (how quaint it now seems that the vice-president could have been the general election runner-up!).
Despite my appreciation for this more accurate rendition of history, I was frequently frustrated that the focus on the personal history of John Adams steered the series away of many of the important milestones of the revolutionary period; the Boston tea party is shown only as the tarring and feathering of the commissioner, none of the war of independence battles are more than alluded to, and the war of 1812 is not even mentioned.
The costumes are amazing and even more so the physical aging of the characters.
A few episodes resort to ridiculously crooked camera angles with annoying frequency, but for the most part the camera work is sedate and pleasing.
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