Review: Hidden Figures Shines A Light On Some Forgotten Heroes
Title: Hidden Figures
Director: Theodore Melfi
Summary: Based on a true story. A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions.
There are important movies that come out each year. This year one could argue that the most important movie to come out in 2016 was Moonlight but that was the “indie” important movie. For all of the accolades that it might get Moonlight was never going to win big at the box office. Hidden Figures, however, appeared to be that kind of movie. It was one that I saw back in early December, and despite the fact that this review is a little late I still believe it’s worth telling you that this is one of the important movies to come out.
Hidden Figures is a crowd pleasing and fun look back at the three women who are often ignored when we look at the history of the space program.
The backlash against the award season being whiter than the Arctic has brought forward some amazing movies about people of color. Hidden Figures is one of them and it talks about race and gender relations with about as much tact as one could hope for in a movie like this. There is always the worry that movies that are ‘about’ something are going to get preachy but Hidden Figures never really goes there. While this is a movie about race and gender that’s not really the focus, it just happens to come up a lot in relation to the three women whose stories we’re following.
Taraji P. Henson is our lead as Katherine G. Johnson who is a genius level mathematician who gets a promotion to help with John Glenn’s first launch into space. However, she is not only the only woman on the team but also the only person of color. There are some great moments for her to show the quiet frustration of someone sick of the system but unable to fix it. We see her get her own ‘labeled’ coffee machine and we also have to see her run half a mile back and forth to make it to the only colored ladies restroom. It’s a great, low key performance. She has excellent backup, though, with Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. Spencer is given one of the best burns of the year that had my crowd cheering like the Avengers just assembled for the first time.
The rest of the supporting cast is excellent, both Kevin Costner and James Parsons, but it’s the three ladies that really hold this entire enterprise together. These were three women who were huge key players in the launch yet the most recognition they got is Katherine gets a NASA building named after her. It’s a joyous movie that doesn’t dwell on how bad it is for people of color in that time period and instead focuses on the fact that these three ladies never let that darkness get to them. It’s a bright and shining movie that is smarter and feels happier than any other film made about race and gender in 1960’s.
Hidden Figures is likely going to get some award recognition but it isn’t quite good enough to beat the rest of the Oscar bait. It’s doing well in theaters at the moment but it will likely end up in high schools as a movie to watch while the teachers have an off day. It’s a good movie though, a very good one, and an important one that young women of any color should see right away.