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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Lessons in Chemistry was a brilliant experiment well worth watching

Rotten Tomatoes
The main poster for Lessons in Chemistry, now streaming on Apple TV+.

When I walked into Barnes and Noble earlier this year, I was not expecting to see a huge stack of copies of Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, the Barnes and Noble Book of the Year in 2022. 

Determined to see what the hype was about, I picked up a copy and began to read the synopsis, expecting to hate it based on what it looked like from the outside. To my surprise, the synopsis was perfectly intriguing, and I bought it without further hesitation. 

Despite it being one of my first literary fiction books I’ve ever read, I absolutely loved it. Zott was a perfectly-written main character, empowering the women around her and taking hold of her situation when everything seemed horrible. However, I will admit the story was lacking in some areas with depth. 

Little did I know that a television show adaptation of Lessons in Chemistry was already in the works. When I heard that one episode per week would be released beginning on Oct. 13, 2023, I was elated. Although there was barely any marketing for the show—as the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike was ongoing at the time— I still had no doubt in my mind that it would be an incredible adaptation.

The plot, for those who haven’t read the book, follows a passionate chemist named Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson), who also happens to be an excellent cook and a feminist. She lives in 1960s America, where womens’ rights, especially in the workplace, were minimal. The last thing she expected to do when taking her job as a lab technician at Hastings Research Institute was to fall in love with no one other than Calvin Evans (Lewis Pullman), the resident genius mind at Hastings.

Upon watching the first episode of the show “Little Miss Hastings,” my jaw was unhinged. I was already so impressed with the overall atmosphere presented in the show at all times, as well as the phenomenal acting occurring on my computer screen. Larson played the stubborn Elizabeth Zott effortlessly, while Pullman portrayed the shy Calvin Evans incredibly well. Despite the first episode mostly departing from the original screenplay of the book, I actually enjoyed the extra additions. It gave the show some supplemental depth that I felt was slightly lacking in the book. 

Through the marvelous casting and the fantastic set design, this show fully captured my heart.

The second episode, appropriately named “Her and Him,” was definitely my favorite of the eight-episode season. This episode mainly delved deeper into the complex, evolving relationship between Zott and Evans, accentuated by the arrival of their dog, Six-Thirty. While watching this episode, I remember audibly shrieking and kicking my feet at the same time. The palpable chemistry (pun intended) created by Larson and Pullman between their characters indulged me in the show completely. This episode also covered a wide range of events, but it was so well-paced I barely noticed at all. 

The next few installments of the first season prominently introduced a new character, Harriet Sloane (Aja Naomi King). Sloane is an African-American woman who lived across the street from Calvin. She soon becomes an important part of Zott’s life after a pivotal event that rattles them both. King played Sloane beautifully, perfectly capturing her determination and unwavering support for her dear friends and family. 

Along with Harriet Sloane came numerous other new characters that followed Zott accepting a new job she never thought she would pass by: the host of a brand-new television show, called Supper at Six. One of these new characters is the compassionate Walter Pine (Kevin Sussman), who is Elizabeth’s TV producer. Pine played a paramount role in Elizabeth’s job as host of Supper at Six. On the other hand, there is Phil Lebensmal (Rainn Wilson). Lebensmal is Walter’s boss, and also manages the television station where Supper at Six is filmed. Let’s just say he isn’t the biggest fan of Elizabeth Zott.

To wrap it all up, the finale of Lessons in Chemistry was simply exquisite. From “Little Miss Hastings” to “Introduction In Chemistry,” the whole series came perfectly full-circle. The ending was satisfying and complete, giving Elizabeth a new road to follow.

Although I am a true believer in the statement, “The book was better,” in this circumstance, I honestly think that the TV show was better. Through the marvelous casting and the fantastic set design, this show fully captured my heart. Even though it took detours from the book, it still delighted me in every way possible. I never felt bored at any given second. Put simply, this show is a spectacular look into the roles of women in the 1960s, and also a profound guide to dealing with grief. It was perfect, an awe-inspiring experiment well worth watching. 

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About the Contributor
Maylee Ohlman, Staff Writer
Maylee Ohlman is a sophomore going on to her first year on The Central Trend.  She spontaneously decided to join Writing for Publication this year and is now excited to keep writing for the rest of her time in high school.  She is part of the FHCVDT and plans to also keep dancing for many years.  In her free time, she loves to read and try new bubble tea spots across Grand Rapids.  She loves to feel like a tourist anywhere she goes and aspires to travel as much as she can in her lifetime.  She is enthused to begin writing for The Central Trend this year. Favorite book: Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter Favorite TV show: The Last of Us Go-to bubble tea order: A peach milk tea with lychee jelly and tapioca pearls

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    Sarah VelieDec 7, 2023 at 1:21 pm

    Agree! Love this book and show! Elizabeth Zott is one of the most memorable characters I’ve encountered.