movies: hidden figures

hidden figures: meet the women you don't know, behind the mission you do
Hidden Figures is the "based on a true story" story of three African American women who worked for NASA doing the calculations that got the first American into space.

And it's an amazing movie... it also had me from essentially the very first scene.

The three women, Katherine Gobel (played by Taraji Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe) take on various roles in NASA, but the majority of the focus is on Gobel, her work on the Mercury 7 project and her relationships with both her co-workers, the reality of the world in the USA in 1961 and with her family.

Henson is amazing in the role, and she makes Gobel a fully rounded character who is amazing at what she does. Spencer seemed to have been a little forgotten until the second half of the movie, but that's when she gets a chance to shine, and I was incredibly impressed with Monáe (to be honest, I didn't realise or remember that it was her until the end credits) who more than holds her own against the powerhouses of Henson and Spencer.

I'm not generally a Kevin Costner fan, but he definitely won me over in this role, being just the right combination of curmudgeon and hero that he needed to be. Again, he's a fully rounded character with some definite nuances even though we learn almost nothing about him beyond who he is in the office.

Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons act mostly as foils for Spencer and Henson respectively, with varying degrees of both casual and explicit racism and sexism. Both are allowed moments of redemption however, with Dunst's being somewhat more explicit than Parsons, however neither moment is underlined in a heavy handed, after-school special kind of way.

The other performance that really needs a shout-out is Glen Powell as the astronaut John Glenn. Partly because Powell just makes Glenn so charismatic, but he also relates to the three women, especially Henson, in a completely different way from all of the other people around them.

As with almost any "based on a true story" movie, this one has varying degrees of historical accuracy (the Wikipedia article does a nice job summarising some of them) although that does make me want to read the non-fiction book the movie is based on even more.

One of the things that the movie does do well is make you feel for these women, both when they succeed at something but also when they're knocked down by the time, place and culture they're living in. And one of the best examples of that happens right at the start of the movie when they encounter a policeman while broken down on the side of the road. I won't spoil it, but it encompasses both their high and low points and pretty much sets up exactly where the movie is going.

It was heartbreaking to watch the ridiculous racism (and sexism) of the times, from "coloured" bathrooms and offices, through to Parson's character being offended because either a woman or a black woman or both was going to be checking on his calculations (the movie never makes it clear if it was one or the other or both, so let's assume both). It made me both really, really angry and incredibly sad that those attitudes are still prevalent and have not been left in the past where they belong.

I'm also really not surprised that the entire cast won the "Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture" award at the 2017 SAG awards, everybody does a fantastic job and it really is an amazing movie.

yani's rating: 5 redstone rockets out of 5

1 comment:

Biki Honko said...

Loved the movie, one of the best movies I've seen in a long while. As the credits began to roll the audience clapped, which says something.

Awesome review!


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