First of all, I really enjoyed this movie, but even writing that gives way to a conundrum I faced as I watched;
How can I say this is a “fun watch” or a “good movie” when the larger issues that are at a boil underneath the surface of this story are so grim?
Hidden Figures takes place during 1961 in Virginia, a state that still practiced segregation despite Federal laws prohibiting doing so, where Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson were all African-American women working for NASA. They were extremely gifted and useful, however, were nowhere close to being used to their full potential. Where the movie takes liberties is in the timeline of the events of the women’s advancement through NASA’s ranks, but for every moment such as this you could make the argument that the timing wasn’t the real story so I was hung up on that for a brief amount and then quickly moved on.
However, to further expound upon my dilemma with this movie was the notion that Hidden Figures, despite finally telling these incredible stories of the women of NASA, glossed over the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement that took the mainstage during this era. Now, where I can offer both sides of this argument is that if this movie dealt with that issue any more than it did it honestly would have become an entirely different film. I thought I would at least attempt to get those thoughts out on paper in order to better equip you going into the movie. Hidden Figures is not a movie about women through the Civil Rights Movement. It is a movie about African-American women who relied on their talent and intellect to breakthrough in a workplace that was dominated by white males. I could make the case that while their race was one half of the beauty of their advancement their gender could very well be the other. These women were pioneers in the truest sense of the word, that forged their way through adversity both with their race and their gender in order to benefit mankind and ultimately our history as a nation. It is remarkable that their stories haven’t been told before this and I was left wondering as to why not?
On a whole the film avoids depth and despair and instead infuses the uncomfortable moments with humor based on the main three ladies’ strong personalities. This allows the true story of their heroism to shine through the darkness of the times and is ultimately a breath of fresh air because while yes, racism is ever present and the movie does well to balance those shameful moments with those of triumph, that issue doesn’t take front stage, but rather is constantly in the background in order to give Katherine, Dorothy and Mary’s story a chance to be told first and then with the surrounding details to supplement their feats and accomplishments.
Why am I stating this?
I am choosing to focus on this internal conflict because as I left the theater I couldn’t answer my own question:
Do I think this movie is better because they chose to have the plight of racism and diversity more towards the background, focusing on the women or should they have had that front and center with the ladies’ stories peppered throughout?
Ultimately, if they chose the latter I would be writing about a different movie entirely and to be honest, I’m very happy they chose the former. It just came off as a solid movie. In the end, you felt both entertained and informed by what these ladies managed to accomplish on their own despite being cornered by their circumstances at every turn. That is the remarkable part. That is what should be celebrated and Hidden Figures does an excellent job of showcasing this.
Also, did I mention that this movie has my #1 mancrush of all time in it? Yes, Kevin Costner is in this movie and of course, he does a phenomenal job with every line he’s given. No question. I must admit that I loved the fact that Taraji P. Henson was more subdued in this role than that of others because I can’t stand her as “Cookie Lyon” because of how over-the-top that character is, but in this she was able to show some range through non-acting. Perfect example, there is a scene in which she is discussing dating with co-star Mahershala Ali (another tall drink of water…) and she conveys three different emotions using the same phrase; “uhhh huh” in different ways. It was a small moment, but I never saw someone playing another, I only saw the character and that is a mark of good acting. Also, can I just say, I love Janelle Monae! She’s excellent in this movie. Her music, it goes without saying, but I love that she’s getting into acting and she did very well in this movie.
HIDDEN FIGURES – 4 GARYS