John Adams (2008) - dir. Tom Hooper
Tom Hooper’s dabbling in longform television is a sight to behold. A miniseries told in seven parts, the whole life of John Adams drags on for over eight hours… but feels as if its going in fast forward. Paul Giamatti is never particularly splendid in any one scene - but the fact that he plays a man from ages thirty through ninety with such poise… well it’s no wonder this product of HBO cleaned up at the Emmys and the Golden Globes. Visually stunning, beautifully told, and a tad on the dry side (much like the source material, provided by David McCullough). It’s really an endeavor only for those who are fans of history and or cinema. Should you happen to marvel most at period pieces (you’ve probably already seen this, and everything else by Mr. Hooper) then I couldn’t recommend it more.
Watching these famous historical figures from our childhood textbooks come to life is easily the most fascinating part. Tom Wilkinson is incredible as Benjamin Franklin. David Morse as George Washington, Rufus Sewell as Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Scott as William Smith… it’s a fine collection of acting, all of whom pale in comparison to GIamatti himself.
But, in turn, Giamatti has nothing over Laura Linney. Her portrayal of Abigail Adams is superb. There’s so much life behind her eyes, so much pain. When she finally meets her demise in old age in “Peacefield,” the story of John Adams the politician fades away, and the we come to finally understand John Adams the man.