Release Date: January 6, 2017
Director: Theodore Melfi
Writer: Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi, Margot Lee Shetterly
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monàe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, Kimberly Quinn, Olek Krupa, Ken Strunk, Ariana Neal, Saniyya Sidney, Zani Jones Mbayise, Tre Stokes, Selah Kimbro Jones, Karan Kendrick, Corey Mendell Parker, Alkoya Brunson, Ashton Tyler, Lidya, Jewett, Donna Biscoe, Jaiden Kaine.
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 127 minutes
Production Company: Levantine Films, Chernin Entertainment, Fox 2000 Pictures, 20th Century Fox
When the first poster for this film was released, it encapsulated everything I’d want in a drama. The title told me everything I wanted to know, while still having a mysterious undertone to it. The imagery spoke louder than ever and possessed three great talented actresses posing marvelously for the camera. Being based on the book of the same name by Allison Schroeder, Hidden Figures is a true story celebrating one of the United States’ greatest triumphs. It focuses on Katherine Johnson and her two colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, as they calculate flight trajectories for the first mission to the moon. It places them on the pedestal they should’ve been on for decades now. Itis a staple that shows how non-equality can ruin us all.
Right as the film starts, it feels like walking into class prepared to ace the test you studied hard for. Expectations were being met from right off the jump. The story puts itself at the perfect launch point and took off introducing you to all the characters, their personalities, and their economic status, with a little comedy sprinkled on top. It illustrated where they are and what the goal of the film was all in one. It addressed the struggles of not only being an African-American in the 1960’s, but being a woman too, with all the stereotypes that comes with it. The thought of how certain people were treated back then is horrific, and the film did an excellent job of showing how accepted it was. Segregated bathrooms and services was at a high, and the inclusion of these acts painted a vivid picture of the times.
It all comes down to the acting, where the three leads individually steal the show and still share it all too. Director Theodore Melfi handled this with laser precision. The film is barely over two hours yet was able to manage multiple women coming together as a team and still jet off to their separate lives to see what strengths they had at home. Seeing Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) shift her weight and tone around the presence of a police officer or white man was chilling. Seeing her dig deep down from the bottom of her soul releasing anger and frustration built up for years was warranted. Her emotional moments were like a battle cry screaming to the heavens above. And as great as her performance was, the roles of Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monàe) were just as great if not better. Spencer has always had a certain classy sassiness to her when she’s on screen. So casting her was the best fit for dealing with racism and giving side-eyed looks to those treating her unfairly.
The topic of discussion with all true stories is, whether or not it’s all true or not. While certain moments within the film made you want to stand and cheer, there were a few that were conveniently inserted in for praise. The timing was off, with some of the setup not lining up with a real-life engagement between people. NASA is a highly secured facility. So when employees can sneak around to build equipment on weekends, to only get caught right as they’re finished and have solved the problem, it feels as fake as a purple Christmas tree. The film isn’t filled with moments like this, but it has a few where the environment wasn’t genuine.
This film has so much wrapped up in it, from great history, empowerment, and doing the impossible. It’s a rally cry to never take no for an answer and to believe in yourself always. It’s a textbook example of how to overcome adversity and stand your ground. It’s about believing in yourself and never giving up. It’s so many things, and so much more, that make me proud that I’ve seen it. It’s a must see that will boost the great will of others. While it may not be the perfect piece of art it wanted to be, it comes remarkably close, shining light on so many issues that still plague our land, and is another step closer to cleaning it all up.