Mike Kueber's Blog

February 10, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #61 – John Adams (miniseries)

Filed under: History,Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 3:30 pm
Tags: , ,

A current fad is to consume an entire miniseries or TV season in one big gulp via the convenience of a DVD.  I once had a girlfriend who did this several times with the TV series “24” and later with “Dexter.”  But I was never interested until a friend suggested to me several options on Netflix – The Killing, Luck, and Homeland – that I found highly enjoyable and almost addictive.  That old expression about not being able to put the book down applies, except that with Netflix DVDs, you may have to wait a couple of days for the next DVD.

Yesterday, I finished the seven-part (three DVDs) HBO miniseries called John Adams.  Although the book is based on David McCullough’s book of the same title, I’ve got to question the outsize prominence the miniseries gives to John Adams in the founding of our country.  If this miniseries is accurate, George Washington was mostly a dull-witted, empty-suit figurehead used by Adams to accomplish Adams’s nation-building objectives.  By contrast, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were bright, articulate proponents of competing extreme political ideologies, both of which would result in the destruction of our fledgling republic.  Only the deft involvement of Adams saved us.  Adams was a one-term president only because he insisted on keeping America out of an unnecessary war even though he knew that getting into the war would ensure his reelection.  And finally, despite Adams’s brilliance, his wife Abigail seems doubly so.

Several critics have criticized the selection of character-actor Paul Giamatti to play such a heroic figure, but his physical resemblance to Adams is striking.  Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, Adams was not a charismatic guy – “Adams was not a popular leader like his second cousin, Samuel Adams.  Instead, his influence emerged through his work as a constitutional lawyer and his intense analysis of historical examples, together with his thorough knowledge of the law and his dedication to the principles of republicanism. Adams often found his inborn contentiousness to be a constraint in his political career.”  So, Giamatti is fine, and Laura Linney as Abigail is even better.

The miniseries ends with the grumpy, 90-year-old Adams grousing that he hopes his posterity appreciates all of the sacrifices that he made in securing their liberty.  Anyone who watches the miniseries can’t help but feeling a debt of gratitude to our Founders.


1 Comment »

  1. Mike,

    I enjoyed your take on Adams. David McCollough succeeded in doing what Adams could never do in life – make himself likeable. If you read his contemporaries view of him, he is pompous, egotistical, and at times, ridiculous – albeit brilliant. He envied Washington his military prowess and the esteem that others held him in.

    He was a great man but his personality was flawed to the point that he was never well liked.


    Comment by Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez — February 10, 2013 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

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