Archive for June 24th, 2018

by Adam Ferenz

There have been many biographical films about US Presidents. There have been several-including more than a few-good ones, made for television. The Adams Chronicles, about the family of John and Quincy Adams, is among the great classic miniseries of the 1970s. Franklin and Eleanor and Franklin and Eleanor: The White House Years, about Franklin D. Roosevelt, are both quite good, as well, along with Truman, which is notable for its fine turn by Gary Sinise as the titular chief executive. Yet all of these pale in comparison to this HBO production, based on David McCullough’s biography of the 2nd president of the United States. Surveying John Adam’s life from the time of the Boston Massacre in 1770 to his death in 1826, this sweeping series is not without its flaws, but it is always engrossing and treats its audience with a modicum of intellectual respect that is uncommon to such programs.

The series occasionally struggles to keep the finer details right, but manages to convey the emotional truth of each episode of history that it covers, and none more so than a discussion between Adams and Thomas Jefferson, in Paris, after the Revolution, in which the divisions in their social and political thinking are clearly rendered, sewing the seeds for their eventual split. Moments like these are what make the series most worth seeing, aside from the fine performances of the cast. Special notice must be given to Sarah Polley, who as Adams daughter, Abigail-known as Nabby, but named after her mother-turns in a performance both fierce and tender, as she faces the premature end of her life in the closing act of the serial. The acting from Giamatti as John and Laura Linney as his wife, Abigail, is revelatory. (more…)

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