After reading the David McCullough book, John Adams, I finally broke down and got Netflix to send the HBO mini-series based on the book. I think the series aired something in the winter of last year, coming out on DVD in June.
This is really quite an excellent miniseries in terms of acting and special effects. They really went out of their way to recreate colonial America. The cinematography was really incredible for a mini-series. Especially the Boston massacre and subsequent trial scenes as well as Pre-revolution France and the inauguration scene of George Washington.
They had some incredible character actors doing most of the parts. A man named Paul Giamatti plays John Adams. In the beginning of the first episode, I was not initially sure what to make of Giamatti being cast as Adams, as he didn't particularly look like Adams as he had a shaved head in the first episode, offset, of course, by the period Courtly wigs. I did not recall ever having seen him in anything before, although I did do a internet movie database search and realized I had seen him as a supporting actor in a few movies back when he had a big, fuzzy goatee and Buddy Holly glasses.
It took about half the first hour of the first episode for me to get used to Giamatti as John Adams, but once I got there, he did an excellent job. He gets more believable as the series goes along until the last episodes, he ages into a dead on ringer of the portraits I remember of John Adams as the President.
Laura Linney, who unfortunately will always be remembered as the woman paleontologist in Jurassic Park and other popcorn fare, is an excellent character actress and did a fabulous job as Abigail Adams. Also of mention were the actors who portrayed George Washington (David Morse) and Thomas Jefferson. I thought the guy who did Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane) was incredible. I thought his supporting portrayal of Jefferson made the series worth watching just in his own right.
I thought the last episode was incredibly depressing, which left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, what with one of his sons ultimately being estranged and his daughter getting breast cancer and ultimately dying from it. I don't know why exactly it left a bad taste in my mouth, as that was all historically accurate, especially the interesting irony of having one of his sons become president and one of the others literally dying drunk in a gutter.
The series is really worth watching if you are into historical period dramas. Its not as good as the book, as few screen adaptations are, but its worth the time. It certainly makes you think and assess the American Revolution probably in ways your High School textbook never did. I liked this aspect of the film and the book because they did this without being revisionist, preachy, or completely trashing or making god-like the reputations of the Founding Fathers beyond historical merit, as most modern historical films want to do.