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Franklin movie review & film summary (2024)

Franklin movie review & film summary (2024)

As Franklin, Douglas is an entertainingly droll figure; he balances the presumed historical wit of the real Franklin with a decidedly Douglas-ian twinkle in his eye. He’s grandfatherly with Temple, but no less a hedonist than someone like Gordon Gekko—he plays Franklin as if one of his erotic-thriller protagonists from “Basic Instinct” or “Fatal Attraction” got zapped back in time and slapped on a powdered wig. He’s wizened but no less amorous for his advanced years, the kind of aging playboy that fits in nicely with the pre-French Revolution decadence around him. Douglas handles the dry wit of Ellis and Korder’s script with a nimbleness belying his years, even as Franklin’s own health threatens to leave him bedridden for much of the latter stages. 

While he plays well against his co-stars, especially his paternal guidance of Jupe’s Temple, he comes most alive when sniping with Adams, who appears halfway through the series as if he were Nick Fury about to rope Ben into the Founders Initiative. Marsan’s energy as Adams is decidedly different from Giamatti’s in Ellis’ original 2008 miniseries—“Franklin” feels like a series-long extension of that series’ third episode, which depicted a more truncated version of these events—but no less welcome. He’s a haughtier, more confrontational balm to Franklin’s frivolity, a junior statesman who hasn’t yet figured out how to play the game. (His private attempts to speak and memorize French are some of the show’s more archly funny moments.)

The show stumbles more when focusing on Temple, though Jupe plays the role with an admirable, youthful pluck. Where Franklin struggles to carve out a legacy in his final years, Temple comes of age, losing himself in the frippery and bustle of French life. He falls in love with an opera singer, gets involved in love triangles, and even finds a job as a page rushing letters across Paris at speed. While these subplots could carry a show on their own, they pale in comparison with the heftier statecraft of Douglas’ sections; in a show already stretching past eight hours, they often feel like distractions, and don’t sufficiently contrast Ben Franklin’s more sophisticated statecraft to make them feel worth the runtime.

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