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Lunch » Tags » Tv Shows » Reviews » John Adams (HBO Miniseries) » User review

A cool history lesson you'll love...if you don't throw up first

  • Mar 16, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+5
I'm not much for miniseries. It's gotta be REALLY promising to get me to commit multiple hours of my time to the boob tube. But "John Adams," HBO's undertaking of David McCullough's lauded novel, had so much buzz on it I was compelled to watch.
I am SO glad I did.

The miniseries opens just prior to the beginning of the Revolutionary War and ends with Adams' death. If you like your history with a dab of realistic gore, HBO has you covered – beginning with an actual tar and feathering at the Port of Boston, all the way through to a 1700s style mastectomy on Adams' adult daughter. Along the way, you're witness to icky, icky smallpox innoculations and amputations aboard overseas journeys. It's not for the squeamish. Which I kinda like – because our nation's history has its nastier points and I don't like it when they're left out. A sanitized version of anything really is just about half-true, isn't it?

Director Tom Hooper succeeds in portraying the era in its most honest light, and brings out the very best in his cast, with stellar perfrormances from Paul Giamatti as John Adams, Laura Linney as Abagail, Tom Wilkinson as Ben Franklin, David Morse as George Washington, and Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson. I actually felt the awards season was rather unfortunate to Dillane – his performance as a sometimes tortured, often conflicted Jefferson was magnificent. Ah, well - everyone shone.

I'm impressed with how much ground the miniseries covered – although it did take liberty with the book, so one should be careful not to take the movie as gospel. Adams and Jefferson's passionate work on the Declaration of Independence, their subsequent lifelong friendship and feuding, Adams' indignation with some of the boobs in Congress and its impact on his presidency, his emotional pain at witnessing one son destroy himself while another follows in his footsteps, and of course, his close, close relationship with Abagail. That woman would give Hillary Clinton a run for her money.

If you can't catch it On Demand through cable, you can find it on DVD – check it out!

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March 19, 2009
Sometimes I think biopics should only be allowed in mini-series format. Otherwise, in the course of a two-hour movie, most biopics just feel like a Greatest-Hits list. I did see John Adams, and like you, was impressed by the ground it covered (well serviced by the miniseries format). Adams isn't our most well-known president, but I thought it captured his personality really well: humble, practical, but always very mindful of ethics.
 
March 16, 2009
I've been teaching a couple of US History courses lately and I have to say that more and more I'm finding the decades that immediately followed the ratification of the Constitution to be incredibly fascinating. I had no idea that McCullough's book had been turned into a miniseries, though! Maybe I can rent a few and show them to my students. Do you think it's appropriate for high-school aged kids?
 
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About the reviewer
Kelly Konrad ()
Ranked #305
I'm a freelance writer, mom to three and wife - and the order of importance changes depending on my mood, the weather or if there's a nut on a reality TV show that I'm just dying to talk about. ("Sorry, … more
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Wiki

John Adams
HBO miniseries
Original Air Date: March/April 2008
Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, Laura Linney, Stephen Dillane, David Morse
Per HBO.com:

"JOHN ADAMS, David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning book and one of the best-selling American historical biographies of all time, comes to the screen as a seven-part HBO Films miniseries.

JOHN ADAMS chronicles the life of this remarkable historical figure, a man whose fiercely independent spirit, reverence for the rule of law and commitment to personal liberty profoundly influenced the values on which our country was founded. The miniseries also explores the extraordinary relationship between Adams and Abagail, his wife of 54 years, a partnership regarded as one of the most moving love stories in American history."
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