Hidden Figures (REVIEW)
Written By Jacob Chimilar (Letterboxd: Sweetlows)
I love space and space movies. Apollo 13, The Martian, Public Service Broadcasting's "Race for Space" album. It's a fascinating subject that showcases in my opinion the best of humanity. These people aren't saving people from burning buildings or making foreign peace deals but they are some of the smartest most level headed and wonderful humans you are likely to meet. In the 19060's however things were a bit more tense. Civil Rights for the African American communities were still being fought for and a trio of the brightest young women (Katherine, Dorthy and Mary) in NASA were having a difficult time showing what it is they are made of.
I've found over the years that biopics are not my favorite genre, as I'd much rather read a biography or watch a documentary about their lives, there are exceptions like The Social Network or Steve Jobs, or most recently Lion but with Hidden Figures it gets a bit bogged down in the civil rights aspect and not enough about what these women were able to accomplish and their brilliance. I have a sore spot for Civil Rights movement movies. I'm all for Civil Rights but I've just seen that story done so many times and I understand the circumstances that I feel that the "shock" it is supposed to induce always rubs me the wrong way. Don't focus on the prejudice, acknowledge it quickly as an obstacle but shift focus right back on what defines the person not how everyone else defines them.
That said the rest of the story is very light-hearted and fun. The music by Pharrell is a nice addition and adds a distinct flavor to the film even if it is a tad on the nose. There are other conflicts to contend with. The introduction of IBM computers taking most of the computational aspects of a whole wing of employees away and the race to be first to space against Russia adds a sense of urgency to the film.
The main cast of women, Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monet make for a wonderful trio I could watch all day. These women proved time and time again that despite what people might think, they are the brightest people in the room but did so without showboating. They did the work and let it speak for itself. Jim Parson's as the snarky "she doesn't have clearance" guy and Kevin Costner as the "I don't give a damn, let her work" guy were played reasonably well, Costner more so than Parsons. The dialogue and banter is wonderful, never going into techno babble, and expresses the emotional side of what NASA was trying to accomplish at the time.
This was a pretty standard biopic film and is sure to find lots of fans if that is a genre you enjoy. I would have preferred a documentary but this is a entertaining slightly more fluffy Hollywood telling that works just fine for most. It's easy to recommend but don't expect brilliance, or to feel big emotions, it's fun and interesting enough to make for a good time at the movies.