Thursday, 17 May 2012

TV: John Adams (8/10)

Having an interest in most things historical, I looked forward to the HBO produced mini-series chronicling the life of American Founding Father John Adams.

History does not appear to have been as kind to the reputation and legacy of John Adams when compared to the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and as such I was curious to discover more of Adams's role in the American Revolution.

It soon becomes apparent that Adams is a feisty, strong willed and self-adored character of the revolution. At first uncertain of using his legal skills to defend Massachusett's interests amongst the thirteen colonies in their dispute against the British crown, Adams grows into his role as statesman and becomes instrumental in campaigning for and assisting in the development of the Declaration of Independence. More due to his vanity and stubborn nature than any particular political beliefs, Adams seems to be largely unpopular amongst his peers. 

The show provides an unromanticised insight into the hard work and personal sacrifices given not by the soldiers of the war but by the new statesmen of the American independence. Following on from independence, the political machinations of the early US government are seen through Adams's eyes as he serves first as vice-president and then as the 2nd President. Adams and Jefferson's friendship breaks down, leading to some greatly dignified but passionate disputes between the two as the ideals of the revolution diverge into Federalist and Republicans party beliefs. In a similar manner to its subject, the series may be slightly overblown at eight hours in length. The middle section in which Adams travels throughout Europe certainly did not need to last for two or three episodes. Although this does serve the purpose of making the time Adams was apart from his family seem extended and more credible bearing in mind his family's remonstrations. That said I certainly would not wish to see any of the brilliant and emotionally intense last episode cut. The series can be subtly humorous in places, notably in Europe where Adams struggles to communicate with the French nobility and deal with their gratuitious pomp and excess and later in London when taught the required etiquette of an ambassador in King George's presence. 

The scope of the mini-series is impressive and as is the norm for an HBO production the visuals and attentions to detail are great.

Now here is the kicker, Paul Giamatti is not a favourite actor of mine. I find him quite limited and find him too abrasive and shouty for my liking. I tried to look past this when watching him on screen and in fairness he does play the part quite well and is capable of portraying some of Adams's character flaws but I just feel strongly that the main part could have been much better cast. Thankfully, Giamatti is supported by a terrific cast. Laura Linney, in particular, is fantastic as Adams's wife Abigail and Washington, Jefferson and Franklin are superbly played with real thought by David Morse, Stephen Dillane and Tom Wilkinson respectively. 
All in all a strong series well worth watching for anyone with a degree of interest in the subject matter. Even non-Giamatti fans! 

No comments:

Post a Comment