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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I felt that every line was a hackneyed rehashing of 4th Grade history.
The characters gave no recitations that showed the considerations of
these tumultuous times. I was excited to order this set and
disappointed to finish it.
Boring is being kind. In comparison to Giamatti's role in the 1995 remake of Sabrina, I came away with a much lower opinion of him. There was no sense of urgency in the story. No sense of interest by the actors. I actually expected them to have David Morse chop down a cherry tree, since the writers had him saying every other American myth attributed to him.
Albert Finney's portrayal of Churchill so was much better than this soporific drivel.
It's my opinion that this should have - and could have -- been done much better.
I am a professor of early American history, and I love the
Revolutionary period. I had high hopes for this production. Certainly
the cast is remarkably well-chosen. Paul Giametti IS John Adams - what
a brilliant stroke. Laura Linney equally brilliant as Abigail, David
Morse eerie in his portrayal of George Washington (and that is a very
difficult personality to try to flesh out - it's not just the physical
resemblance), and who could complain with Tom Wilkinson as Franklin?
The attention to detail is correct and a marvel to watch.
But. The script is boring. How could they make such an exciting time in our history so boring? I can't figure it out - although taking the point of view of one of the crankiest of the so-called "founding fathers" might be one reason.
I blushed for the memory of Abigail Adams when the screenwriter had her moaning because John had to leave her yet again - for heavens' sake - the war lasted seven long years for Massachusetts militiamen, most of that time spent very far from home. They were paid in worthless currency, and when they finally came home, the state government tried to take their farms away from them, leading to Shays' Rebellion and, eventually the Constitution (and, by the way, a new legislature the next year, who stopped the foreclosures).
Abigail Adams was smart, she was resourceful, and Laura Linney portrays her well - but she was definitely NOT alone in having to run a farm without a husband beside her. At least HERS wasn't killed or maimed.
I did love the scenes of the Adams couple watching the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the cannon being dragged from Fort Ticonderoga (over the White Mountains). (Too bad they didn't also include how furious the New York militia were when Massachusetts filched what they considered should be THEIR cannon - although it was Vermonters who actually stole them in the first place). But very little else resonated.
There was so much diversity between states, and within the large ones. So much interesting going on. So little included in this series.
It's not factually misleading as The Patriot was, but ... it's so godawfully BORING.
I fear we've lost the point of view of the colonists - who bottled the British up in their "safe zones," in cities, for the British dare not set foot in the countryside. Hmm. Maybe that's just too familiar. Maybe we can't understand any more what the fight for liberty was all about.
What a pity. Brilliant actors, a fantastic set, an enticing topic - and thus far some of the most boring hours I've spent watching TV. (My husband, who is definitely NOT a historical scholar, shared that point of view by falling asleep soon into every episode thus far. He did not fall asleep during Band of Brothers.) Next time have Ken Burns write your script. Or at least vet it.
I'm enjoying this series but with a regular annoyance with each episode. The general population of the time is always presented as a crude, uneducated, immoral generation that has a mere sprinkling of individuals of stunning vision and character. My recollections of the history of the time, are of a populace that is, for the most part, educated in the basics, highly principled, and fiercely independent. These people fully participated, and indeed empowered the ratification of the constitution of their own free will and provided the true power of the movement, which the principle players of the series merely crystallized into a tangible document and gave it leadership.
I don't know what there was to like about this miniseries -- the
directing/editing was horrible -- Paul Giamatti was not up to the task;
he came across as mean-spirited and unlikable -- I had a migraine
headache after 30 seconds; was there one scene that was not filmed with
a $20 hand-held camera, operated by an unskilled, on drugs, amateur
with the shakes?
Here's an idea: next time HBO makes a film, maybe they should hire a professional camera person, or at least an adult with a measurable IQ, that knows how to hold a camera; and they should invest in something -- I don't know, a tripod, dolly, or other stable base -- and actually take a second to THINK about what it is that you want to film? I can only imagine that each scene went something like this, "Dude, why'd you drop the camera? That cost $20 dude. What are we supposed to be doing here? Does anyone know what this scene is about? Oh the hell with it. Dude, stop picking your nose and run over there and shove the camera into that guy's face, then back up and shake it around bit, do that a few times, and then just follow him around, and then spin around in circles and try to get everyone if you can. I'll be back in half an hour, I have to see a man about a horse."
All this did was give me a migraine headache. The camera-work sucked, the directing sucked, the editing sucked, everything sucked.
I had great hopes for this series, but based on the first episode, I won't continue to watch. The acting was fine, but the direction was quite poor. It's shot documentary-style, which is fine in and of itself, but the camera is either right up in someone's face or hiding behind something as if it's afraid of being seen. I thought the style truly hampered the effectiveness of the story, rather than making it more immediate and compelling (as I would imagine it was intended to do). It seemed like John and Abigail were struggling to ignore the camera crew in their 18th century home. It got frustrating after a while, and ultimately I found it hard to even finish the debut episode.
Very slow start to a project like this so rich in history.
Why didn't they show The Boston Tea Party in progress?
Part 2 is where the story really starts to take off. We see the Continental Congress where there is an excellent debate regarding whether or not the colonies should declare their independence from England.
We begin to see the hardships on the Continental Army with Gen. George Washington in command.
Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney show that they were made for their respective parts of John and Abigail Adams. We feel for Abigail when she and the children are inoculated against a smallpox outbreak. Abigail immediately shows her independence as a woman. She was way ahead of the movement for women.
Tom Wilkinson is quite effective as Benjamin Franklin. There is a terrific supporting performance by Zeljo Ivanek, as a Pennsylvania Quaker delegate to the Continental Convention advocating accommodation with England rather than breaking away from her. Part 3 deals with Adams go to France to seek help. It really depicts the beginning of the dislike of Adams with Benjamin Franklin. Tom Wilkinson really shines here. We can also begin to see why Adams was a one-term president. He seemed to have difficulty relating to me. He also appears unwilling to bend or become conscious of French culture and the political scene there. This part begins in 1777. What happened to that rich full year of 1776? Saratoga's battle is not viewed but rather discussed. Students of history know the importance of that battle. With America's win, France was willing to aid us in our fight for independence. Abigail again shows her mettle by stating that had she been a male, she would be fighting. She also agrees to allow her son, 14 year old John Quincy, to accompany his father on the boat. A brief skirmish is shown here as well as Quincy conjugating the French verb ETRE (to be) to learn his French.
Suddenly, John Quincy, at 14, is rushed off to the court of St. Petersburg in Russia. He is going with a young emissary. Why is this occurring?
Rating for Part 3: ***.
In Part 4 the Revolution miraculously comes to an end quickly. After the Battle of Saratoga, in 1777, we skip to the British suing for peace. Whatever happened to 1778-81? Gen. Cornwallis must be miffed by not even being mentioned.
Adams goes to France as an envoy for establishment of trade. Thomas Jefferson, recently widowed, is taking over for Benjamin Franklin as U.S. Ambassador to France. Was Jefferson flirting with Abigail? It sure looks that way. Congress sends Adams to England to be our Ambassador there. Quickly, John and Abigail tire of Ambassador life and return to the U.S. to find their children grownup. Charles is precocious and knows how to take a drink at Harvard. John Quincy, very bright, is carrying on an affair with a 15 year old girl. He promises dad to cool it.
After hesitating, Adams accepts the will of the nation and becomes Vice President. He and Abby practice saying Vice President Adams. George Washington takes the oath of office and can barely be heard.
Part 4- Too fast for me. Rating **1/2 Part 5- Better ***
This part gets down to history in the making but it's very choppy in nature. How do we address the president? Adams begins to see his role as the Vice President as a bore until he votes to end the tie regarding the Jay Treaty.
The Federalists and Republican parties are shown as we see conflict brewing between Adams and Jefferson.
Abigail and Adams argue and the latter is really beginning to show his age here. Their daughter weds; another is off to Holland and our country is threatened with the conflict between England and France. Revolution rages in the latter.
George Washington takes retirement after 2 terms and Adams, winning in the electoral college 71 to 68 for Jefferson is sworn in as Jefferson becomes his V.P. There may be trouble ahead! Part 6 An Unnecessary War!
Imagine, Adams averted war and lost the 1800 election! Only in America.
The story remains choppy. His son's poor behavior is poorly explained here. Adams renounced him but mother Abigail went to visit the dying son on his deathbed.
The averting of war with France is merely glossed over.
Yes, slaves built the capitol!
We have our first tie in the electoral college following the election of 1800.
Adams already breaks with tradition by not staying around to see Thomas Jefferson inaugurated. I thought that outgoing President Truman was something by not saying one word to President-elect Eisenhower as they rode together for Ike's swearing in.
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