Positive Reviews for HBO's John Adams

Posted on March 13, 2008

John Adams HBO

Hollywood Reporter says HBO's John Adams miniseries is a "masterpiece." They loved Giamatti's John Adams but were less enthusiastic about Stephen Dillane's performance as Thomas Jefferson.

"John Adams" is downright bold in its insistence on authenticity. Filmed in Virginia and Budapest, the production design is absolutely faithful to the colonial period, right down to the muted and even dreary colors that dominated New England. Kirk Ellis, who adapted the biography, stays true to the words and speech patterns of the period. Director Tom Hooper shows a keen eye for the details of colonial life and the mannerisms of the day.

Giamatti is brilliant as Adams. He is fearless in his portrayal, confident that the character's all-consuming sacrifices for his fledgling nation will more than compensate for his numerous character flaws. Linney, with charm and determination, shows why Abigail was so important to her husband and, indirectly, to the birth of the nation.

On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson, played by Stephen Dillane, is seen here as reserved and even morose. Jefferson was no shrinking violet. His uncompromising passion for life and his ideals of democracy were both a source of his greatness and an irritant. He shared Adams' devotion to liberty but differed greatly on how that was to be achieved. A more full-blooded portrayal of Jefferson would also have added additional perspective to the portrait of Adams.

Hollywood Reporter isn't the only media outlet praising the series. The Boston Globe says John Adams "brims with life and texture." The Hartford Courant says it "gives John Adams his due." The Seattle Times calls it a "griping civics lesson."

An unusual aspect surrounding the series has been the partnership between HBO and USPS to promote the show focusing on the prolific letter writing of John Adams and his wife Abigail. Large John Adams ads can be seen in U.S. post offices. Kevin Costner probably wishes the Post Office would have been as helpful for his film The Postman.

The HBO series is based on historian David McCullough's Pultizer prize-winning book also called John Adams.

Photo: HBO

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