I'm sorry to say that I really did not care for Paul Giamatti as John Adams. At all. I was a bit wary of him after seeing his picture-- I mean, he doesn't really look like the type who would play such an incredible and influential man, he just looks like your average crabby, overweight senator in a western movie. Paul Giamatti made John seem impatient, irritable, short-tempered, and just generally a grouch. Which, history tells us, is kind of the way John Adams was, but not always. I shall take this opportunity to refer to my beloved George Grizzard and say that his interpretation of John Adams (besides being absolutely adorable and amazing and perfect) was impatient and irritable and short-tempered and often grouchy, but he was also reasonable and wise and a loving husband and father to his children. Which brings up another thing I didn't like about this John Adams: he didn't seem to love his children. I know that sounds awful, but from the very beginning when they were all still very young he always seemed to either yelling at them or ignoring them, and then when he came home from Paris years later and they were all grown up, it was as if he barely knew them. He wasn't very affectionate. He didn't seem to care about what they wanted, he only cared about what he wanted for them, and to tell the truth, he kind of ended up making their lives miserable.
In The Adams Chronicles, John Adams really cared about his children. He was affectionate, and we saw none of this from Paul Giamatti. He was always like, "Alright, John Quincy, I've decided you're going to the Netherlands, Thomas will go with you whether he wants to or not, Nabby must stay with your mother because that no-good husband of hers can't support them, and now I'm off to go whip some decency into your no-good brother Charles."
|Oh my goodness. Would you just look at that. I am quite tempted to quote Mattie Ross.|
John and Abigail's relationship left much to be desired. It seemed as if by making Abigail very quiet and somber they were trying to portray her as this divine fount of wisdom or something, but really she was just boring. Alright, perhaps she did give John some good advice now and then (well, someone had to!), but did he listen to her? DID HE?
Alright, y'all know that I am not really all that fangirly. Well, maybe I am, but only on occasion. Stephen Dillane's Thomas Jefferson is one of the few people who brings out my fangirly side. Seriously, if you watch John Adams and find yourself mooning over Thomas Jefferson practically the entire time, that's okay. I understand. : )
Thomas Jefferson is one of those people who just has to be played well. And as much as I adore The Adams Chronicles, I didn't particularly care for their Jefferson. Well, it wasn't that I didn't like him, but he had a ridiculous amount of flaming red hair, a long pointy nose, and the guy must have been at least seven feet tall. Plus he had huge feet. In short, he did not fit my mental image of what Thomas Jefferson should (and what I like to think he actually did) look like. Stephen Dillane did. I might even go as far as to say that he may be the best thing about this miniseries. Stephen Dillane portrayed Jefferson as a quiet, studious man, an independent thinker, and a revolutionary at heart. Jefferson had a genuine passion for the plight of the French people, which was something I hadn't known before, and even though he was part of the Republican party, he seemed to kind of have his own ideas about most things. One thing I did learn from this miniseries is that the American and French revolutions were more closely related than I ever knew.
Mr. Jefferson, though mostly a serious man, did have some humor in him, which was a blessed relief. In The Adams Chronicles practically everyone had wit and humor in them, (except perhaps Alexander Hamilton), but humor of any kind was pretty hard to come by in this series. I actually liked the scene where John and Abigail and Mr. Jefferson are watching the air balloon take off (if only John had not been complaining about how it wasn't possible--hrmph.) In fact, the only times Abigail ever laughed were when she was with Mr. Jefferson. Hmmmm. It really is no wonder that John was a bit jealous, since standing next to Mr. Jefferson he looks even worse. But then, John and Abigail didn't seem to trust each other very much, especially considering all they had been through together.
When Sadie and I first heard about this miniseries and looked it up on IMDB, we were delighted to find that our very own dear Mr. Pecksniff was Dr. Franklin! I've seen quite a few Benjamin Franklins in my time, and Tom Wilkinson is not the best, but he wasn't the worst either. I think my favorite would be either the one in The Adams Chronicles or A More Perfect Union. I actually realized when I watched The Adams Chronicles that Benjamin Franklin wasn't really the way I (and most people) generally think of him as being. We always think of him as a wise old gentleman with witty sayings who always knew what was best for America and its people, because that's the way the history books describe him. It never once crossed my mind that he was in any way careless, and yet that is exactly what he often was. While he and John Adams were in France, John found him to be often frivolous, careless about expenses, and not focused on what they were really there to achieve: an alliance with France. John also predicted that Benjamin Franklin would "forever occupy an elevated position in the American imagination", and he has.
Tom Wilkinson's Benjamin Franklin was good, but not my favorite. I also wished they would have included John Adams' and Dr. Franklin's argument about whether to sleep with the window open or closed, which was an actual argument they had (one of many) that was shown in The Adams Chronicles, and was really quite funny.
David Morse was THE WORST George Washington I have seen to date. Besides John and Abigail, I would say that he was probably the worst cast character in the entire series. Sink me, he was just so awful. There were numerous things wrong with him, but his main problem was that he didn't at all seem like a leader. The man looked like he was afraid of his own shadow, for heavens' sake. For being an army general and then later on a president, he sure didn't seem very confidant of himself. He also didn't say much, and when he did talk it was with a strained Irish accent, as if he knew he wasn't supposed to sound Irish and that's why he didn't want to talk very much. The poor man was always so nervous, almost painfully so. In fact, when we first saw him, before we knew he was actually George Washington and not some random officer, we thought, who is this weirdo and why is he always lurking about the congress without ever saying anything? Then we found out it was George Washington and we were like, "WHAT?" Couldn't they have gotten anyone better to play our country's first president and one of the most influential men in America's history? Johnny Cash would have been a better George Washington than this squarehead. (If you're wondering why on earth I would say such a random thing when Johnny Cash has never played George Washington and unfortunately never will, it's because the actor who played Washington in A More Perfect Union looked like and reminded me a lot of Johnny Cash, and he's the best Washington I've seen so far.) I actually don't even hardly remember George Washington in The Adams Chronicles, because he wasn't in it very much and he must not have been very memorable, but I know he wasn't this bad.
Samuel Adams was just plain loud and annoying. The picture above should give you a pretty good idea of what I mean. I know that Samuel Adams was a wildly passionate, overly-zealous and outspoken patriot, but I thought Danny Huston's interpretation just a tad too much. In The Adams Chronicles, John and Samuel (who was affectionately called "Cousin Sam"--none of that here) often disagreed on matters, but they were still friends. After all, they were kin. In this miniseries, John and Samuel seemed to practically hate each other. I also found it kind of strange how Samuel mysteriously disappeared after John came back from France, because I'm really not sure what happened to him, but I suppose they simply couldn't include everything. Samuel Adams really wasn't in much of the miniseries, considering his name is listed on the back of the case, but all in all I was okay with that. The only line of his I really did like was when the president of the first congress session was reading a proclamation from King George III, and at the end when he read, "God save the king", Samuel said, quite loudly and slowly, "God d***n the king." I know, it wasn't very polite (well, HELLO, the man was a tyrant in their eyes!) and technically it was swearing, but at the same time it was pretty epic. There's no denying that. : )
Guess who played King George III.
Now on to The Adams' children. From the very start, life at home for Abigail and the children was pretty bleak, and it didn't get much better. If anything, it got worse. I really didn't like how cold and unaffectionate John and Abigail were towards their children, especially John. In The Adams Chronicles (here we go again!), John and Abigail were loving parents who cared for their children and wanted them to have a good education and be happy. There is a very touching scene when John Quincy is young and he asks his father why he has to study Latin, and John tells him about when he was young and he asked his father the same thing. There was practically no communication between the children and their parents when they were young, they were just ordered about. In fact, the children didn't even talk to each other. For goodness' sake, they hardly talked at all until they had grown up! Another thing I loved about The Adams Chronicles was that it focused so much on John's family. He loved his children and when they grew up, he was proud of them.
Charles had it even worse. In The Adams Chronicles, Charles just kind of disappears after he's grown up and we don't really know what happens to him. Well, actually he marries William's sister Sally and they have three children. It seems like things are going well for him with his law practice and all, but he's always at odds with his father (who doesn't seem to love him). But then things get worse fast, and Charles becomes irresponsible, dissolute, and an alcoholic, he loses all the money his brother John Quincy lent him, and eventually he dies. I really had no idea that was what happened to him, so it was kind of a shock. Actually, that's very similar to what later happened to John Quincy's son, George Washington Adams.
Paul Giamatti's John Adams was a terrible negotiator. He was unreasonable and impatient with the French people (although I sympathize with him in that regard) and the Dutch, acting like they owed it to the United States and if they didn't do as he wanted they had better watch out. The whole negotiating thing was extremely tiresome, for everyone involved: John Adams, the Frenchies and the Dutch, and me.
Another quibble I had with Paul Giamatti was that he was so often whiny. He hardly ever had anything positive to say about anything or anyone and, as I said before, he was just a grouch. When he became president it got even worse, because if his appearance and negative remarks meant anything at all, he had absolutely no desire to be president and believed he could do nothing to help the state of his country. It was almost laughable. When he and Abigail first come to the house where they are to live until the White House was built (and Abigail gets yet another opportunity to use her favorite word), he complains about how much he hates making speeches, "standing in front of a thousand people to whom I have nothing to say." John Adams with nothing to say! Indeed! I suppose I understand some of what he was feeling, but he seemed awfully pitiful, and I didn't like that. You see, I don't think of John Adams as being pitiful. I think of him as being a great, influential man, a man of real integrity, and I definitely don't think of him as a complainer. It's not just that I don't like to think of him that way, I really don't believe he was that way in real life. Paul Giamatti seemed more like a mockery of John Adams than an accuracte depiction.
John Adams' inauguration was actually kind of good. Considering how much I dislike the actor, this was a fairly good scene, and when George Washington said his famous "I am fairly out and you are fairly in" line, it did rather send shivers up my spine. John Adams' speech wasn't too bad either, although I wouldn't categorize it with Anthony Hopkins' speech as John Quincy Adams in Amistad or James Madison's speech in A More Perfect Union. This one wasn't too bad-- in fact, it was pretty good, but not quite as epic as I would have liked. I'm very fond of speeches in movies, you know. : )