LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY. Excellent entertainment
I had been eagerly awaiting the Lessons in Chemistry from Apple TV, mainly because for a long time, I had closely observed the immense hype surrounding the book version of this story. Eventually, I succumbed to curiosity and checked out what had captivated international readers, particularly in Bonnie Garmus’s novel. I checked it out and fell in love – despite its simple plot, not requiring much engagement, the story set in the 1950s about a female chemist who, against all odds, promotes feminist ideas on television, had conquered the world. Due to the significant interest in the book, it was quite clear that sooner or later, we could expect its adaptation to the screen. Hence, my curiosity about how the creators would bring Elizabeth’s life to the screen grew even more. Although Apple only revealed the first two episodes on Friday morning, we already know that we can expect excellent entertainment from the streaming service’s latest series.
Lessons in Chemistry captivated audiences with its aforementioned simplicity in message, intelligent humor, and a tender dose of warmth that shone through the characters on Bonnie Garmus’s book pages. We can already witness the same in the beginning of the series, which is just a prelude in the announced 8-episode series. Apple’s latest series tells the story of the introverted, somewhat aloof, and mysterious Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson) – a scientist who, instead of conducting the desired research on abiogenesis, is forced to make coffee for her bosses and hand them test tubes, even though she graduated in chemistry with honors from UCLA. All of this is due to the prevalent patriarchy in the industry and the sexism of the times – this is the period immediately after World War II when a female scientist is seen as a grotesque and a shame, no matter how groundbreaking her advances might be in her theses. Zott, however, stubbornly defends her honor, refusing to participate in typically feminine pastimes, battling with the demons of her past every day, which prevent her from opening up to intimacy, especially with a man. Unexpectedly, this barrier is broken by her collaboration with the department’s chemistry star, Calvin Evans (Lewis Pullman) – an eccentric, highly predicted by many for a Nobel Prize, who, like Zott, is somewhat peculiar, perhaps that’s what draws them to each other. The first two episodes are just the beginning of their professional relationship, which gradually evolves into something deeper, something that Elizabeth is incredibly afraid of. However, the chemistry between them is so palpable and unforced that even such a straightforward storyline is a pleasure to watch in their execution.
The conclusion of the first two episodes is an unexpected twist that will surely catch viewers unfamiliar with the book off guard. The love between Elizabeth and Calvin is put to the test, and it’s uncertain whether it will have a future at all. This is where we gradually step into the most crucial part of the series, with its development still ahead of us. However, at this moment, we can undoubtedly acknowledge that Lessons in Chemistry had a very successful debut. It fulfilled its role as enjoyable and intelligent entertainment, tailored to the thematic needs of our times. The portrayal of the misogynistic bosses’ treatment of Elizabeth Zott is a great reflection of today’s workplace standards in many places, and her behavior serves as a model for contemporary women boldly fighting for their rights.
Brie Larson embodies her character, and her coldness, fear, and the simultaneous temptation to get closer to Calvin while cutting off unpleasant memories feel natural and are likely to resonate with many women. The same applies to Lewis Pullman, and the casting for the main roles was brilliantly executed and works perfectly on screen. What also works exceptionally well in Lessons in Chemistry besides the great acting is the atmosphere of 1950s America, faithfully conveyed through set design, music, and, unfortunately, the stereotypical mindset that so often stands in the way of the main character. She faces a choice: whether to sacrifice her life for marriage, children, and tedious domestic duties, or to push her research to the end at any cost.
After the release of the first two episodes of Lessons in Chemistry, there’s not much more to say except that they fulfill their role as light, easy, and enjoyable content. The creators managed to bring the humor so present in the book to the screen (although it has been slightly reduced for the series’ purposes, and this works well for it). Many storylines are still waiting to be developed, and we hope they will be just as satisfying. New episodes of the series will be available on the platform every Friday, with the next date being October 20th. It’s definitely worth starting your weekend with a viewing of this undemanding, relaxing, and fully entertaining production. This is the type of series that, despite operating on very basic premises, sometimes romanticizes reality and serves as a typical time-filler, carrying many highly relevant messages, such as the fight against sexism, stereotypes about women, and racial prejudices. A quiet, uncomplicated, but essential production.