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Watching books on film carries the danger of replacing a rich and
complex experience by an overly simplified, bare-boned one.
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.
I find it an excellent series as far as the story goes. I enjoy the
glimpses in to history that this series gives. My favorite part is
watching and listening to David Morse as George Washington. I think he
is incredible. I wish that they would do a series on Washington with
David Morse in the lead. I cannot add much to what the other people
have said about the series but I want to add two observations.
First, I think that, in many places, they give a little more credit to Adams than he deserves. I know that he is regarded as the leader in the push for independence but I think this series even exaggerates that beyond the actual fact. Also, I am concerned about his leadership when he was president. I think that they make it much more powerful and important than it really was considering how history has looked at his presidency.
My second and hardest thing to get over in this series is the 'look'. I am reading a book called Max Quick: The Two Travelers. In this a couple of boys are transported in time back to 1912. One of the boys comments that the look of people in 1912 is different. He comments that if a few people from 1912 were transported to our time and mixed in with people from our time he could tell which ones were from 1912. This is the problem I have had with the John Adams Series from the beginning. There is something about the look of the people that just does not ring true. I cannot put my finger on it. I am not sure if it is the makeup or the dress or the language or the mannerisms but something is just not right. I think Paul Giamatti is the hardest to get get used to. I am not putting down his acting or his performance, it is just that there is something about his look that just does not sit right with me. The same seems to apply to most of the characters. They just do not seem like they live in the 18th century. As I mentioned above the only one that seems to pull it off is David Morse.
This is the only reason I am giving it 7 stars instead of something much higher. Otherwise it is a very good series. I recommend it to any fan early American history.
Interesting adaptation of McCullough's excellent book. You need to read
the book to fill in the gaps the miniseries does not have time to
cover. For instance Adams did not spend his entire time in Washington
City sitting in a dark corner of the newly built White House. He
visited George Washington at Mount Vernon, and attended Congress at the
new Capitol building.
Gripping dramatic interpretation, great computer effects, lavish wardrobe.
Excellent location shooting.
Read the book.
This many awards winning 7-part HBO series is one of the best ever mini-series concerning American history specifically the American Revolution era. I started watching this monumental achievement Saturday early evening, and except for the very last episode, pretty much finished it up including the documentaries. The last episode is about Adams life after his term as the second President of the United States. This takes the viewer all the way through the Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence, the war with Britain, the formation of the American government, and the huge role of John Adams in all of that, and an amazing performance by Paul Giamatti as Adams. Also, Laura Linney as Abigail Adams is brilliant. One of the most stunning character performances is David Morse as George Washington. It knocked me out of my chair when I saw him on screen, because he looks almost identical to Washington. The character casting is absolutely sensational, with superb performances with all the legendary characters involved in those events. I love American history, and this brought to light many things I did not even know happened, and it is supposed to be as accurate as any movie ever on the subject. One of the most bizarre scenes, is John Adams meeting the creepy and probably crazy King George. It seems to me, except for a very few and not including the Queens that ruled Great Britain, that most of the Kings were creepy and mentally ill, to say it in a nice as I can way. Anyway, the long trip to Europe John Adams made to secure alliances, and a nice loan from Holland, and his keeping the US out of a War with France, when they turned from huge friends of ours in defeating the Brits in the Revolutionary war, to aggressors is brilliantly depicted. This is great stuff, and worthy of the many awards it won, and I hope more movies or mini-series about early America can be made with the quality as this one.
This series was a great reflection of the harsh times that were faced
during this era. Sure John Adams was a flawed man but he was a strong,
kind hearted man who made a major impact on this country. His ego was
definitely at fault for his pompous attitude and even dislike by
others, but he meant well and served his country to the fullest. I am
completely mesmerized by the depth this mini series portrayed. His
family life, his beliefs, and his efforts all contributed to the
foundation that America was built on. I felt very much like I was right
there with him during his times of turmoil and even ridicule. He was a
good man and had a profound life. I am very happy this series was
published, it has helped me to see things that history books couldn't
quite explain and has left me wanting more.
The people who made this miniseries did their history homework. David Morse portrays George Washington so well and looks just like the real George Washington just stepped off the one dollar bill and into reality. Paul Giamatti is one of the best acclaimed actors in the business. I recommend this miniseries to ALL schools so our children can learn something about the birth of our nation. The subtleties of the everyday items during that time period are portrayed near perfectly. King Louis is excellently portrayed as well as King George. You can almost feel yourself in this time period with the way the costuming is done and the mannerisms. GREAT MINISERIES.
OK, not specifically, but near enough. I have thought him an
under-appreciated actor for year and years now, the equal of Anthony
Hopkins or Al Pacino.
I also like David Morse, such a likable chap, if you have seen him in other roles like in The Green Mile.
I absolutely felt chills in the first two eps - Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and Washington, meeting in the garden. The quiet scenes in the continental congress.
As an Objectivist, I am an ardent believer in the right to life, liberty and property. I hope the europeans, who harbor a mistrust of my country, can watch this and understand the magnificence of our founding, which can only be tarnished by unwise men, but not defeated.
America is the oldest functioning democracy in the world. The State encroaches here, as it has already swallowed Europe. Pray that we can turn the tide back to individual rights, end our stumbling towards socialism and brutality, before revolution becomes necessary again.
Very gripping and great acting.
Some historical inaccuracies (pointed out to me by my son, but I wouldn't have known otherwise), I wondered why.
Visually striking and often thought provoking.
Certainly a must for students of American history.
Possibly not as good as the novel, but then thats a tall order.
Subtitles help when viewing for those unfamiliar with the details of names and history of those times.
A must watch for all Americans who will grow to admire the founding fathers and have a perspective on the birth of a nation.
what is its virtue ? accuracy ? brilliant performance of actors ? precise details ? charm of an American story about birth of a nation ? not ! only its spirit. because this film has rare and great chance to be not exactly a page of history but a parable or a lesson about axis of existence. a pledge for measure and for truth as base of a great construction. about sacrifice and taste of victory. Paul Giamatti does the role of his life. and this success is result of a delicate hard work because his John Adams is not only credible but his clothes becomes skin of interpreter. a profound admirable movie. and new demonstration of HBO science to give refined gems to his public.
Excellent HBO mini-series based on the David McCullough biography of the second U.S. president. It begins with Adams witnessing the Boston Massacre in 1773 (he was the defense attorney for the British soldiers - something I'm surprised that I didn't know) and ends with his death on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the country (on the same day as his best friend/worst enemy, Thomas Jefferson). It's a beautifully mounted series. On a technical level, it's just gorgeous, with great detail to the sets and costumes. The writing is great, giving us a well-paced story, nicely divided into seven parts, covering long segments of Adams' life. It rarely feels like they're just trying to cram information into the episodes. The acting is generally fantastic. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are John and Abigail Adams. Stephen Dillane gives quite a unique take on Jefferson. Tom Wilkinson is Ben Franklin, David Morse is George Washington, Danny Huston is Sam Adams, Rufus Sewell is Alexander Hamilton and Sarah Polley John's daughter Nabby. I do think Giamatti can be a little too nebbishy, as he has a hard time escaping his nature, but I mostly think it works for the character. I wonder if Adams comes off that way in McCullough's book, or if this is just something that comes out of Giamatti. All of the famous historical characters are well drawn and come off far differently than one might imagine. Alexander Hamilton, for example, comes off almost as a villain with a somewhat poisoning effect on George Washington (Adams and Jefferson apparently really didn't like him in real life, and their evil eye certainly comes through in the POV of the series). By the end of the series, I felt like I knew a lot more about the time period than I had since I was in history class back in high school (maybe more), and I was extremely entertained all the way through. The Blu Ray edition (and perhaps the DVD, though I don't think so) has a feature that delves further into the story with pop-up facts. I watched the series with this feature playing from near the end of the second episode (I had wanted to see if it had any more information on Thomas Jefferson's view of slavery).
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