Film Review – Hidden Figures (2016)

Title – Hidden Figures (2016)

Director – Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent)

Cast – Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge

Plot – The true story of African American NASA workers Katherine G. Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Monáe) as they look to overcome 1950’s/1960’s American racism and help in the race to get an American into space and eventually the moon.

“Every time we get a chance to get ahead, they move the finish line”

Review by Eddie on 5/06/2017

A perfectly fine and inoffensive middle of the road experience that inexplicitly got nominated for a Best Picture Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards, Hidden Figures ends up being a workmanlike telling of an extraordinary feel good true story, that would serve up far more emotion and resonance in a documentary format.

From the films beginnings right through to the story’s end, Theodore Melfi’s film never does anything to distinguish itself from the usual Hollywood fare that delves into race issues and trials over adversity stories that made themselves apparent in the American era of rampant racism and lack of social acceptance.

Not every film dealing with such heavy topics needs to be dour and downtrodden and while Hidden Figures poppy qualities such as Pharrell William’s often intrusive soundtrack and the almost comical scenes of Taraji P. Henson’s maths genius Katherine G. Johnson racing to the bathroom across what seems like an entire complex or Kevin Costner’s kind hearted white boss Al Harrison smashing down a coloured bathroom sign with an audience watching on, feel more light-hearted than occurrences of much meaning and fail to distinguish themselves from the pack. Which means there really isn’t much of substance to be found in a true life tale that has an abundance of it at its core.

Focussing largely on Henson’s Katherine (who often steers into an overacting zone) and her racially tense appointment to an important computer office tasked with sending America’s first manned spacecraft into space, those expecting the trio that includes Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae to get amongst the action will be disappointed as they are relegated to caring friend side characters that ad very little to proceedings at all.

Taking nothing away from what Johnson achieved in her time at the NASA complex, it would’ve been great for Melfi to pay more screen time to Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson’s plights as black American woman that to achieved great things under duress and racism as it feels as though we’ve been short changed from their plights as Johnson gets the bulk of the important scenes.

The relegation of these characters in Hidden Figures displays a glaringly obvious fault with a film that is clearly looking to be a crowd pleaser over a real memorable and moving one, which is a real shame for a story that deserves a lot more than this unfairly praised event.

Final Say –

Hidden Figures will make you feel good but it isn’t the sum of its parts when all the critical and commercial success is bought into the equation.

While this perfectly average film has its heart in a good place and has a nice glossy sheen, you can’t help but feel that this Hollywoodized experience is far less heartfelt and moving than it should’ve been and ends up being the year’s worst Best Picture entrant by a country mile.

2 ½ bashed down bathroom signs out of 5

5 responses to “Film Review – Hidden Figures (2016)

  1. I agree it could and should have been “edgier” but the film is designed to appeal to a wide demographic and does that well enough. With all that’s going on in the world, this at least sends a better message than most apocalyptic style movies at the moment – you make very
    valid points though 🙂

    • I really do feel this story deserved something a little more substantial. I just couldn’t help but feel this was a little to “Hallmark” like to actually tell this story in the way it deserves.

  2. I really liked it’s old fashioned nature. It was inspiring and about institutional racism. All of these NASA people think they are progressives and yet they arent. This is very relevant. Sometimes movies like this teach you more than the intense films like 12 Years a Slave;although both have their place. I liked all the performances and it was glad to see it get nominated tbh

    • Glad you enjoyed it Smiling. I have real doubts that this film will be remembered much in the coming years but it seemed to come out at the right time and as you say can offer some inspiration to those that really got on board with it.

      • Yeah my nieces all went to see it with their schools so it may be remembered more than you think by inspiring them to think big. I think that’s an important part of movies is inspiring kids and families

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