John Adams (2008)


While this was OK, I don’t think I can recommend this (except to Mitchell, who wants to see all of Paul Giamatti films). Unless you know a lot about the history of the time period, the people and events, I think the film can be pretty confusing, as it leaves out a lot of these details which are crucial to understanding and enjoying the story. Not knowing these details could make the series pretty boring, too, and except for those who really have an interest in the American Revolution< I think this series would be boring anyway> I think a lot of details are left out of the way Jefferson and Adams’ relationship developed. The film doesn’t give you a sense that they were really good friends. Many details that explain the way their friendship was damaged are also left out. Part of the problem is that there is so much ground the series is trying to cover. Having said that, the relationship between the two is central to Adams and, at least for me, one of the more interesting relationships in Adams’ life (besides his relationship with Abigail). They were opposites in so many ways–ways that you would think would make their friendship impossible. For example, Adams was very blunt and forthright whereas Jefferson was duplicitous; Adams seemed more of realist while Jefferson was an idealist. Of course, I should say that my information comes from McCullough’s book, which should give one pause as McCullough seems so smitten by Adams that his objectivity is somewhat suspect. I wished the filmmakers spent more time on this. This is a criticism that has to do with my personal preference, but I think there are many other details left out that would make appreciating and understanding the events in the story extremely difficult.

The other problem was the acting. I found Giamatti’s acting to be a over-the-top and ham-fisted, as if he were channeling Al Pacino in his worst moments. In many ways, I think he was miscast, too, at least by my conception of Adams–someone with a little more gravitas. I also didn’t care for Laura Linney’s performance, too. I guess, they didn’t seem believable. Perhaps, the writing is partly to blame and the direction–as there wasn’t enough time to adequately establish characters, relationships as well as provide critical historical details.

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