Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: 'John Adams' review

Today's column reviews "John Adams":
In the new HBO miniseries "John Adams," history comes alive -- then frequently pauses to nap.

The mini has an impeccable cast, led by Paul Giamatti as Adams and Laura Linney as his wife, Abigail. It's based on beloved source material, the Pulitzer Prize-winning David McCulloch book that everybody seemed to have tucked under their arms for much of 2002. (How many people actually read it, as opposed to showing it off, is an open question.) But too much of the finished product feels like required homework.

McCullough's goal, in part, was to shine a light on one of the less-revered founding fathers -- to show that Adams was more than just the guy who ran the country in between Washington and Jefferson. More often than not, though -- particularly in the first four chapters (out of seven) that HBO sent out for review -- the miniseries seems to be implying that maybe this man's life isn't worth a big-budget, six-week, seven-part epic.
To read the full thing, click here.

11 comments:

Bob Cucciniello said...

Thanks for the review Alan. I have been waiting for this series for a long time. Sorry to hear it is slow in parts but, as I remember, the book had some slow parts too. Is the series suffering from trying to stay true to David's book or did it bring this on itself with the adaptation?

Toby said...

I'm trusting that casting Giamatti in the role works because of his talent as an actor, because I don't think he looks anything like Adams. This isn't always a detriment - I thought Oliver Platt captured Steinbrenner without looking the least bit like him. (At least Giamatti has the short and frumpy bit cornered for Adams.)

Had this been made thirty years ago or so, I think the late Ed Flanders would have made a great Adams. (Although his height would have been the drawback in his getting the look right.)

Anonymous said...

No Survivor review this week?

CHET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Christy said...

I liked Adams before I read the book. I despised him when I finished. I always wondered if David McCulloch began the project in admiration and then changed his mind. Or maybe it's just me.

flem snopes said...

Christ,

I was never a big John Adams fan but if Jefferson could reconcile with him he couldn't be all bad.

flem snopes said...

Ooops, Christy,

Sorry for the typo.

Andrew said...

I just saw the first two and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I was pleasantly surprised to see Zeljko Ivanek show up in the second part because I hadn't heard anywhere that he was in this, and he probably gave the show's most impressive performance so far. It's not the most exciting thing, but that doesn't really bother me. Then again, I enjoy "In Treatment" so maybe I just don't crave the traditional brand of excitement.

Nicole said...

Other than knowing he was the second president, I really don't know much about John Adams, so it should be interesting to watch. I hope there is some accuracy with the Revolution, because in schools north of the border, we go from the Treaty of Paris to the war of 1812, with a quick mention of 1776 and taking in Loyalists, but nothing in detail unless you take US history in University. And I certainly don't trust Mel Gibson's version of history in the Patriot, or as I like to call it : Bravehart in North America.

mstroock said...

I watched the first two episodes last night and thought they were terrific. Can't remember when I last felt that the time invested watching a movie or TV felt so satisfying. In interviews Tom Hanks and McCulloch explained that some of the confusion regarding who is who was deliberate, so that the viewer experience is closer to one living at that time, as opposed to already knowing the outcomes. I thought it was effective and, like the book, elicited wonder at the audacity, courage and grit of those who founded our country...and how many times it all could have turned out so differently!

Anonymous said...

Hey, "I'm obnoxious and disliked" was really true. I thought it was just in the 1776 play :)

Eve said...

Paul Giamatti is superb as John Adams. I am so happy to see him in this role; there are few actors as subtly expressive as he. He is Every Man, scintillatingly alive beneath his homey and comfortable appearance. Laura Linney, his perfect foil as Mrs. Adams, sharpened desperation and loneliness to a fine point. She carries within her, in every role that I have seen her in, a sort of quiet, insulted dignity.

Their love scene touched my heart with its reality and hunger. I am an ardent fan, hoping to see them rewarded for their frank portrayals.