Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures (2016)
Rent Hidden Figures on Amazon Video // Buy the Book
Written by: Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi (screenplay), Margot Lee Shetterly (based on the book by)
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali
Rated: PG

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!

A team of African-American women mathematicians served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program.

Hidden Figures introduces a new side of the NASA genre with a fantastic story, providing amazing acting from an impressive ensemble cast and great writing and directing too. This movie has so many great moments of struggle and triumph.  It's humorous, inspiring, and endearing. You can't help but root for these women and marvel that we've never heard their stories before.
Watch it.

The introduction is great. It quickly introduces us to Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) as a child giving us a glimpse into how smart she is and what she's overcome. We then transition to Katherine, Mary (Janelle Monáe), and Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) on the way to their jobs at NASA, though there car is broken down. A cop dismisses them for being women and black, before he's convinced they work at NASA. I have to point out that there is no way to "jump" a starter from under the hood.

This does a great job of tempering the serious story with humor. It's a well done movie. Everything these women encounter is a test. I was surprised they didn't encounter more friction, especially Katherine, as they work their way up the ladder at NASA. Stafford (Jim Parsons) is the only real jerk, and he's not that bad.

Katherine has some great moments of triumph when she gets to display just how smart she is, like when she calculates the Redstone and Atlas rocket trajectories. The acting is amazing from top to bottom. It's not often Octavia Spencer can be overshadowed, but this is one of those cases. Monáe and Henson both are stellar.

It's an inspiring tale of determination. While the women share a goal, they each have a distinct path. As Mary states, somebody has to be first. These women stood up and made themselves heard. I have to wonder if some of their big moments were dramatized for film. Were they really so bold, risking their jobs to make themselves heard? Either way, this is a fantastic film and makes for a great story. We've seen plenty of space movies with gritty male heroes. Who'd have thought a movie about the engineers behind the astronauts could be this gripping?

A few notes on the historical accuracy, Mary was the one that had to go across campus for a bathroom. Katherine mistakenly used the "white" bathroom for years before a complaint. After that, she kept using it. Mary didn't have to get a court order to go to school.
John Glenn did ask Katherine to double check the math before launch, but it was not a down to the wire, nail biting scenario.
I'm not criticizing the film for cleaning up and dramatizing the story, that's part of making a good film. These are just facts that shed light on the story.

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