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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also authored several short stories such as "The Devil's Comedian", "The Devil v. George W. Bush", and most recently "Wait Until Tomorrow". He resides in New Jersey. Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: michaelreyes72@hotmail.com

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Friday, July 4, 2008

"Liberty will reign in America"

When watching the HBO miniseries on his life, John Adams isn't portrayed as a man without flaws who single handedly won independency as a "party of one". He is shown as a man who is honor bound to do the right thing, whatever he believes it to be, and to do what's right by the rules and regulations that tie him in his station. Instead of inciting riots among the American citizens after the Boston Massacre like his cousin Samuel, he goes to defend the British soliders that were accused of committing the very massacre. His reason? Because no one else would, and he knew as a lawyer that everyone is entitled to legal counsil, no matter who they are or what they're charged with. Instead of courting the French monarchy and its decadence, he prefers to engage in a heart to heart with King George III, just to show there's no hard feelings over that revolution that gained America its independence.

Over the course of a week, I've seen all seven episodes of John Adams, which was released on DVD last month, and I find it nothing more than a miniseries worthy of the HBO banner it carries. Its attention to detail is matched only by the fine performances that are given, and the well written story of a man who wasn't destined for greatness, nor was it thrust upon him...he engineered it and grabbed it for himself. His drive for success and excellence garnered him great acclaim, but also made him a pariah, as well as took its toll on his family life. He lost a daughter to breast cancer, he lost a son to alcoholism, and he was the first president to have their son also share the distinction of serving the highest elected office in the free world. This is a truly impressive miniseries that foregoes the cliche of having to focus on the Revolutionary War, or The Declaration of Independence, but instead shows us these moments as what they truly are: snapshots in the life of a truly extraordinary man.

First off, the cast couldn't be any more perfect. Paul Giamatti continues to prove why he's such an in demand character actor, and why being such an actor is better than being any leading man. His portrayal of John Adams is at times vulnerable, and at times vicious. The arc of his life takes him from an eager lawyer who fights for the rights of his enemies to an old man who's embittered but also emboldened by all of his life experiences, both good and bad. Laura Linney does an amazing job of complimenting Mr. Giamatti's performance with her portrayal of Abigail, his faithful wife. Not content with just standing by her husband, Abigail was her husband's greatest confidente and one of his harshest judges. She knew he had greatness in him, and she knew the lengths he would go to get it, it was merely a matter of how she would express her approval/disapproval.

Not to cheat the supporting cast with lumping them together, but it would be nice if we could have more movies where David Morse, Tom Wilkenson, and Danny Huston all starred, and their respective performances as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Samuel Adams are all equally awesome in their own right. A giant with a heart, an old man who behaves much younger than he is or should, and a rabble rouser who's very blood is still coursing through the veins of this nation, all three are worthy subjects for speculation and all three are played by men who truly had a handle on the people they were playing. However, the story would not have been as powerful as it was without Steven Dillane's Thomas Jefferson. The story arc of these friends, turned rivals, then friends again, is one of the big payoffs when watching this seven part epic.

In fact, I would go on to say that while Episode 2: "Join or Die" is my favorite of them all, the two best story arcs throughout are the relationship Mr. Adams had with his family, and his ever changing political (and personal) relationship with Mr. Jefferson. These two storylines are the main reason why this is one of the best biographical projects I've ever seen. Instead of focusing on a singular event and expounding on how it changes a person, it shows a person's life through those events that changed them, which in turn forms a bigger picture of who that person is and how they became that way. Most importantly, it doesn't romanticize John Adams' life and times, in fact it portrays him sometimes as a partially absent, but still overbearing father. This particularly shows in his relationships with two of his sons, Charles (who becomes a drunk) and John Quincy (who we can presume begrudgingly becomes president to carry on his father's legacy). It also shows him as a prototypical Nixon: he is painted as a president nervous of everyone else's opinions, ready to list and attack enemies, and slightly paranoid. This does not make him a bad man, just a misguided man who got what he wanted and wasn't completely sure what to do with it.

At the end of the miniseries, I was left with the impression that Mr. Adams achieved the greatness that he did in his life because he felt he must, not because he wanted to. A man of a strong moral code, he felt passionately for whatever cause he saw as correct and fruitful to the American cause, whether it be proposing neutrality between England and France, or eventually persuading Washington to side with the British after John Jay's treaty. All of the intellectual and critical mass aside, this is a fitting tribute to democracy, and it's a damn fine movie. HBO will be running all seven parts today, so if you can I suggest you watch it in it's entirety.

1 comment:

isu0316 said...

Such a fantastic review. Spot on thank you and happy independence day!

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