Lessons in Chemistry [6/10]

Lessons in Chemistry, the unexpected hit 2022 novel by Bonnie Garmus, always seemed destined for the screen, so now we have the eight-episode streamer Lessons in Chemistry. Aspects of the novel frustrated my reading experience, but the book’s wonderful mix of 1960s atmospherics, feminism, geekdom, and family dynamics led me to look forward to a tighter, more poised version onscreen. Alas, as I should have expected, the show is a meticulous set rendition (pre-hippy America comes to life) and faithful retelling, but falls flat in the key areas. Brie Larson does a creditable job as heroine Elizabeth Zott, uncertain evangelism for women’s opportunities via a chemistry-centric TV cooking show, but unfortunately creditable is not good enough. Lewis Pullman is simply too restrained as Calvin Evans, the brilliant love of Zott’s life. Other bit players shine somewhat brighter, but the low-key softly voiced script, allied to a limp music score, gives them no chance to shine. Some scenes are stronger than others but the overiding vibe of Lessons in Chemistry is a muted period piece, not the compelling drama I had hoped to sink into.

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