Paul Giamatti plays John Adams in this superb biography of one of America's most underappreciated founders. Based on the best-selling book by David McCullough, this HBO mini-series tells the story of a very human Adams, a Boston lawyer who can't abide the British hegemony that eventually leads to the American Revolution. We follow Adams and his family as they endure the years of war and the political battles that ensue as the nation is born and struggles to find a balance in the fragile relationship between the thirteen colonies to form a central government.
Watching this series makes you appreciate the courage, integrity, and remarkable intelligence of men like John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson without requiring the idealized legends we all learned in school. These were all real men with very personal concerns who rose above them in a common cause. Historians are blessed by the fact that Adams' wife Abigail kept most of the many letters the two exchanged while Adams was away from home during the Revolution, while he attended the Continental Congress, and later when he was an envoy to France. McCullough relied on them heavily in telling the story of their relationship. Laura Linney is nothing short of superb in her portrayal of Abigail as the loving wife, devoted mother, and Adams soul mate and counsel. Kudos also to David Morse who plays George Washington as a reluctant politician whose moral compass keeps him from allowing his fame as the leader of the Revolution from turning the presidency into a monarchy. And British actor Tom Wilkinson shines as Ben Franklin who is shown in an unusually unflattering light as a much more self-interested man than the patriotic inventor and prolific orator we read about in the history books in grade school.
While the actors are an essential factor in making this series such a rewarding marvel, what has to amaze us all is that the story told here is the unvarnished truth. Few writers manage to make history so compelling and yet palatable to a broad audience. A must-see if there ever was one.
Rainbo Electronic Reviews published this review in our July, 2008 issue.
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