Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hidden Figures: Movie Review


Crowd-pleasing history.
The best thing about Hidden Figures is its story. Based on real events about a trio of African American women who worked for NASA and literally helped launch a man into space, it’s a story that’s not all that well known, you’ll learn something, and it’s easy to get interested in. It also helps that the entire cast works well together and can add a lot of bravado and humour to the movie. A true crowd-pleaser in every sense of that phrase. 2016

Directed by: Theodore Melfi

Screenplay by: Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner

Taraji P. Henson has the lead role as Katherine Johnson. A quieter woman who based on her math skills has been assigned to a team that’s working on the physics behind sending John Glenn into space. She’s the only woman who’s not an administrative assistant, and she’s definitely the only African American, both of which cause many issues for her and her racist and misogynistic co-workers. Not included in that group is Kevin Costner as her boss, who is just delightful every time he realizes the problems that bombard her.

Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), flanked by fellow mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)
meet the man they helped send into orbit, John Glenn (Glen Powell), in HIDDEN FIGURES.
Janelle Monae has a louder role as she attempts to enroll in university to become a qualified engineer. However, Octavia Spencer had the best balance between drama and comedy, smarts and determination, and true leadership. It’s her job to assign women employees to the jobs their best qualified for, managing their workload and making sure each department can do what they need to, through workers or computers – but she’s not a manager. Her “fight against the system” while becoming adept at computing is handled well.

It can become frustrating when you realize how little faith the filmmakers have in the story they’re telling. The added sub-plots like Katherine’s struggles as a single mother and falling in love are pure TV movie melodrama that serves no other purpose than to fill-out check boxes to fulfill studio requirements. The movie is extremely formulaic and lays on everything very thick for the audience. Considering how smart the characters are, they definitely don’t think the same thing of the audience. No subtlety, nothing to figure out.

The history behind Hidden Figures is enjoyable. Glen Powell as John Glenn at the very beginning of his stardom; three women trail-blazing their way through science; and the rest of the world slowly realizing the changes that have to be made. All the while, the audience just has to sit there and enjoy it.