Lesson in Chemistry
Apple TV+ is back with the much-anticipated adaptation of Bonnie Garmus’s novel Lessons in Chemistry. In a world ruled by mid-century sexism, Brie Larson portrays Elizabeth Zott, a woman with the potential to be a ground-breaking research chemist and yet she is reduced to the role of lab tech/coffee lady by her colleagues. Zott becomes increasingly baffled by the incessant patriarchal barriers and endeavours to establish herself amongst the scientific community. When Zott encounters Nobel-prize nominee Calvin Evans, played by Lewis Pullman, her life is altered; she is propelled into a life of celebrity, science and romance, becoming a TV host for a cookery show.
Lessons in Chemistry is a visual delight. The setting feels entirely plausible as viewers are transported to late 1950s America. There is incredible attention to detail in the staging and set design: from costume to Tupperware, there was an obvious emphasis on authenticity that translates well.
However, there has been some criticism surrounding the show. Viewers feel as though it strays too much from the acclaimed formula of Garmus’s original story. Yet, it is important to remember that creating an adaptation of any novel is bound to disappoint at least a few fans. Whilst there are certain elements of the text missing, including aspects that make it feel special, such as humour, it reinforces that nobody shares the same experience of reading a book. Therefore, this series will be best enjoyed as a stand-alone project.
Larson is triumphant in the role of Zott. She has the ability to portray a woman appalled by the treatment she receives from her male counterparts in a subtle way. Even in the most absurd situations, she remains composed, perhaps even robotic. Viewers are only aware that Zott is hurt by these sexist remarks and quips through her complex range of facial expressions. Larson has mastered the art of a blank look, one that almost reveals her true feelings but never quite lets the viewer in. Perhaps, this expression is evocative of the thousands of women who have been pacified by patriarchal forces over the years.
Lessons in Chemistry is an undeniably moving watch and it is an important reminder of why, even today, we strive and battle to allow women to use their voices and harness their potential. It is not a show full of action but rather one full of heart and delicious food. While the story touches on subjects that have been portrayed countless times and fails to push any further boundaries, it does, however, give a heartfelt, and scientific, excuse behind burnt food.
Lesson in Chemistry is released on Apple TV+ on 13th October 2023.
Watch the trailer for Lesson in Chemistry here: