The Ladies Behind the Space Race – Hidden Figures (2016)

Come together.  Based on true events, this focuses on a trio of African-American women who work for NASA in the 1960’s.  This was in the thick of Jim Crow segregation laws, and this is about how these overqualified women put in hard work in the face of adversity to achieve something monumental.  Now there are many movies that are similar to this film that tackle race issues, and I don’t always go for them; I famously think The Help is overrated with all of the praise it received, and The Butler was okay, but mostly forgettable.  Hidden Figures is something much better, and this movie is something I can all but guarantee that you will walk away feeling positive about.

2It’s just accessible like that.

Now I don’t think that this has all that much directorial flair to it, but I don’t think that it would be appropriate if it did feature that.  The focus is always 100% on the story and on the ladies, and if it had been anything but just standard direction, it would have detracted from the narratives being told.  Besides, what is lost in style is more than made up for in pacing; this movie is over two hours long, and you do not feel the length at all, and you’re always excited to see what happens next.  It is all tied together with some original music from Pharrell; it’s not 60’s music, but it appropriately matches the tone of the film and it never feels out of place.  It’s also never obtrusive, but it did make me want to add all of the music to a Spotify playlist.  All of these stories are engaging, and all the lead actresses turn in good work, but it is Taraji P. Henson that is the standout, which is appropriate, because she has the biggest focus.  You get small glimpses into all of their personal lives, but you really want to see the next thing that is going to happen in what is NASA’s equivalent to a war room.  In addition to that, Kevin Costner does really well as the no nonsense boss; I don’t always like him in everything (see: Criminal, a movie that will be scrubbed off of everybody’s brain by the end of next year), but I usually like him when he is turning in performances like this one.

1He has a moment in this where people in my theater were literally cheering, which was a nice touch.

Hidden Figures is uplifting and sentimental, and if I am being honest with myself, I ended up liking it more than I thought that I would.  In fact, the only criticism that I have for this is small: I feel that the characters that Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons are playing are a bit one-dimensional.  They are really only here to serve as obstacles, and while they are certainly just that, they ended up coming off as slightly cartoonish when compared to the much more fleshed out lead characters.  Hidden Figures tackles a serious subject matter, but it still manages to keep a sense of humor about itself so that it never gets dreary.  It raises its points, but never at the sacrifice of the narrative, and you will walk away from this movie feeling great.

Hidden Figures (2016) ****

– Critic for Hire


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