Before I went to see this, I was told Hidden Figures was a ‘nice’ movie. I found that vague and coy, however in reflection that is how I can best surmise it. The story of three brilliant minds from 1961 that happened to be three black women in a time of racial segregation, and their contribution to one of the most prolific moments in the history of human achievement; space travel.
Had this film been rated MA15+ rather than PG, I feel it would have been a hugely different movie. The racist elements of the film are addressed more as hurdles than as subjugation, despite it being an ongoing challenge as the ladies must face issues with the use of coloured-only bathrooms and offices and the sheer shock of white co-workers seeing them out of those situations. The core element of the plot is that these women not only overcoming racial barriers but sexism too.
Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monàe are in the leading roles of the brainy mathematicians who transcended expectations and in each individual way pioneered a new era in the U.S Space Program, whether it be through being the first African-American (and female) N.A.S.A engineer, or the first to learn how to program the IBM calculating machine properly. For Katherine Johnson (Henson) her work was critical to the success of America’s first manned orbital flight.
These actresses brought these real characters to life with brilliant acting. Displaying the Hidden Figures tolerance and patience, as well as their own relationships and tenacity to break the mould and refusing to be treated as second-class citizens. It is an uplifting film, carried by these fine actors, which make it worthy of the Oscar nominations it garnered and critical box office success.
The film is also supported by fantastic ancillary characters played by Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons, who all in their PG way illustrate a time not so long ago, but so very different to today, of a very clear and systematic prejudice of African-Americans. However their portrayals are of forward-thinking minds and tolerance, especially in the desperation of the space race against Russia, America does not have the choice to refuse a genius brain, whether it come from a black or white person.
A clear message of this film is empowerment, about equality (and equity), but done in a tasteful way with mass audience appeal, making Hidden Figures a feel-good movie, but not in a cheesy way. It continues to impress the whole way through, despite the obvious flow of the storylines mapped out in scene one and a distinct lack of tension, which parallels the PG rating – this film is a treasure, and opposed to its other Best Picture contenders, probably the only one you’d take grandma along to see. Unless she’s a racist.
Rating: 7.5/10 (nice)
Image credit: Hidden Figures Official Website