The Chair (2021)
Director: Daniel Gray Longino
Creator: Amanda Peet & Annie Julia Wyman
Writer: Jennifer Kim, Andrea Troyer, Richard Robbins, Amanda Peet & Annie Julia Wyman
Actors: Sandra Oh, Jay Duplass, Bob Balaban, Nana Mensah, Everly Carganilla, David Morse, and Holland Taylor.
Genre: Drama / Comedy
The Chair challenges societies problems within the English department of a lower-level ivy league college with class, crass and all too close-to-home absurdity. Ji-Yoon (Oh) becomes the Chairwoman of the English department at Pembroke College, and while trying to balance her personal and work life with this exciting promotion, she actually starts to lose control of herself.
Sandra Oh plays the extremely relatable and comedically balanced Ji-Yoon. As the ‘straight women’ of the show, she is surrounded by intelligent yet quirky characters. Most of which are the English department veterans whose lectures are trailing behind the newer and younger lecturer Yasmine and popular writer, Bill. All their stories interweave and create interesting dynamics. Yasmine being a highly successful African American lecturer finds difficulties in the majority white male field, which is emphasised by Ji-yoon convincing her with one of those lecturers. Joan (Taylor), being a veteran of 32 years at Pembroke is challenged when her office is moved to the basement of the gym building. Lastly, Bill (Duplass) stumbles through life after the death of his wife and when his daughter goes away to college. Unintentionally stirring up trouble during a lecture, he causes more trouble for the already “ticking time bomb” of the English department.
All these stories are cleverly written into a series of 6 episodes. While there could be a possibility for a second series, the ending felt satisfying and realistic. Beginning with Ji-Yoon and Bill the series concludes with them, rounding the story out brilliantly. Their relationship is one of the highlights of the show, showing how two people with different philosophies can help each other through their daily struggles, sometimes causing more issues than they intended.
As previously mentioned, the series tackles the societal problem on a microcosmic level. Race, gender, free-speech, bureaucracy, age and strong elements of women’s struggle to balance life and work. Ji-Yoon, who is South Korean, is a single mother of adopted Mexican girl Ju-Ju (Carganilla) and struggles to relate to her. Like one of the characters says, “It’s like a Frankenstein family”, which could be used to sum up the characters in the entire show. It’s easy to fall in love with each and every character as you watch them create unusual relationships and try to navigate their differences. Which is the most endearing element of the whole series.
It’s a heart-warming and thought-provoking story, which juxtapose the injustices and very real issues that need to be addressed with the love and affection of both people and their jobs. Through all this the characters are well acted, relatable and funny. Set in the very English-ified campus, the heritage feel cements the college in the past with the characters and their lives being the modern element that shines through as adorably complicated humans just trying to do the right thing.
Production Designer: Grace Alie
Cinematographer: Jim Frohna
Music: Stephanie Economou
Production Company: BLB & Nice Work Ravelli
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Poster images were found through: www.impawards.com
All opinions are my own and factual information is found through IMDB or Wikipedia.