This one was an awards contender LAST year, but I never got around to see it…well, I’m glad I did this year! I found this movie to be surprisingly moving. I honestly wasn’t expecting it…but I guess I’m a sucker for stories about people receiving recognition they’ve deserved for a long time…and space 😛
Three brilliant African-American women at NASA — Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) — serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world.
I liked this movie A LOT. The writing, directing, casting, music, subject matter…all of it was top notch. It was fairly feel-good through-and-through, but that didn’t bother me whatsoever, particularly when it seems like, if anything, they ADDED drama to the story.
The Space Race fascinates me. I never knew this about myself. But, man, the idea of an entire group of scientists being collected with the singular mission of getting us up to the stars is my JELLY, JAM, my FRUIT PRESERVE. I never gave it much thought, really, when I was kid because it was a GIVEN to me that we’d gone up there and done that. Now that I’m older, I understand just how incredible it actually is that we accomplished it. It’s an incredible feat. One that hasn’t been duplicated, and at this point, won’t have been 100 years later.
Taraji is a goddamn national treasure. She’s wonderful. Whip-smart, emotionally available (that’s an actor term right there 😛 ), and when so many of us know her for her over-the-top sassy, diabolical characters, she was impressively nuanced in this movie. Same goes for Octavia Butler. Holy shit, is she a wonderful actor. I could watch her in everything. And Janelle Monáe is stunning. Might have a crush on her, not gonna lie (don’t read this, bear! uuuggghhhh). Kevin Costner, so recently sooooo annoyingly over-the-hill and irrelevant…was fucking fantastic.
Theordore Melfi, the director on this…I have to say, I’m not familiar with his work, but damn: he turned out a pitch-perfect movie. It was so freaking POLISHED and CONFIDENT. It was nuanced, precise, effortless storytelling, and I realized watching it just how infrequently I feel that way watching a movie, even from the best, as Del Toro’s latest showed me.
The flim was funny, it was exciting, impeccably executed, and about subjects like equality, recognition, respect, excellent, and science that I find are incredibly important to me, personally. Bravo!
WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
Criticisms of the film, at least those I can remember, were mostly centered around it being too by-the-numbers, formulaic, or otherwise lacking an edge or innovation of any kind. I have to say that’s fair. This movie didn’t break any molds, and we have certainly “seen” this film before…but, damn…the MOLD they used for this movie #1 has been used over and over again because it fucking WORKS, and #2 was executed so well, I didn’t really care that it was paint-by-the-numbers.
Another, valid, criticism of Hidden Figures is that it played a bit fast-and-loose with the historical facts. MOST of the scenes in this film, at least the most dramatic ones, were either amped up (like Johnson needing to manually check John Glenn’s numbers *minutes* before launch; she *did* manually check his math, but in reality, she had days to do it), or they were made up entirely (like when Harrison knocks down the “colored women’s bathroom” sign with a crowbar; Johnson, in fact, had been using the white women’s bathroom from day one).
Here’s my rebuttal to that (again, valid) criticism: this was a movie about three black women who were crucial to the US Space program who, to this point, had never been properly recognized for their contributions…heroes are glorified ALL THE TIME. I’m okay with some fudging here and there for these women. I *do* hope that anyone watching this film would be inspired thereafter to go and read about the 100% true story 😉
This movie made me tear up on several occasions, for a variety of reasons. Its themes resonated with me very personally…which isn’t to say I’ve ever been pidgeon-holed or denied my purpose because of the color of my skin…but in a variety of other ways. Chiefly is my belief that it is the truest American value of them all to say that no matter who you are, you can achieve anything that you put your mind to. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.
I’m not sure everyone will feel quite so emotional watching it, but I’ll bet you’ll recognize a tale worth telling being well-told when you see it.
8/10 – Recommended