What You Need To Know:
(RH, H, VV, SS, M, C) Revisionist history with a humanist worldview; revolutionary violence including hangings, bloody head on a spike & mob activity; adultery & fornication implied, Punch & Judy doll with oversized private male organ; perverse Punch & Judy show mocking king & queen of France; and, positive reference to Catholic convent & faith.
Set during 1784-89, in pre-Revolutionary Paris, JEFFERSON IN PARIS focuses on Ambassador Thomas Jefferson dealing with the death of his wife and the role of the United States in history. This saga opens in the mid-1800s, with the “alleged” black grandson of Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Hemmings, telling the tale of JEFFERSON IN PARIS. He informs us that Mr. Jefferson’s relationship with the court of Louis XVI was confounded by his relationship with Maria Cosway, the wife of an English painter. After this affair, Jefferson’s attention is diverted to his fourteen-year-old slave, Sally Hemmings, when the Cosways return to England. When Maria returns, she is told that, in America, masters have a “special” relationship with their slaves. When Jefferson finds that Sally is pregnant, he promises to give her and her children their freedom after he dies.
Aside from the annoying tendency of revisionists to read their mores into the history they are writing, this movie gives very little insight into Thomas Jefferson, author, statesman, scientist, architect, and philosopher. In the film, Jefferson is portrayed as a clod preoccupied with sex. Not only does the script fail to enlighten us, but the acting is strained. Regrettably, this mediocre movie will be the historical reference point for all who see it.