FlixChatter Review: Hidden Figures (2016)

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Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Runtime: 2 hrs 7 minutes

Hollywood loves BOAT, that is, films Based On a True Story, and few are as overdue yet timely as Hidden Figures. Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, it tells the story of a team of African-American women who worked at NASA and their integral roles in helping the U.S. advance during the Space Race during the Cold War era. Billed as ‘human computers,’ these women are the quintessential unsung heroes with an inspirational and important story to tell.

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Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe star as Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson respectively. A trifecta of massively talented Black actresses who brought wit, grace and humor to their roles. The film is at times harrowing to watch and it made me sad and angry at the appalling treatments of Black people, especially women, during a time when racial segregation was still legally enforced in the country. The fact that this happened merely 50 some years ago literally gives me chills. Yet the film never descended into somber or depressing territory, but it was brimming with a defiant but hopeful spirit throughout.

Right from the opening scene when their car broke down and they had to deal with the white cop who arrived to question them instead of offering to help, there’s a lighthearted tone to the film. It’s not that the filmmakers are making light of the situation however, in fact, this is a crowd-pleasing film that’s told with equal amusement and gravitas. Even during a key scene where Katherine had to walk half a mile one way just to go to the colored bathrooms, drink from a separate coffee kettle marked ‘colored’ and endure constant belittlement from her colleagues, the film never felt too heavy-handed or overly-sentimental. There’s also the moment Dorothy was kicked out of the Virginia public library for venturing out of the ‘colored’ section. Spencer’s Dorothy remained dignified and defiant as she rode home on the bus with her young boys.

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It’s hard to pick a favorite out of the three female protagonists, as they’re all excellent and given an equally compelling character arc. Henson’s Katharine seemed to have the largest arc of the three and it’s such a joy to watch her in the role. She had to act several scenes writing complex mathematical formula on a board in a single long take, and she managed to do it effortlessly and believably. All three women were convincing in their roles, their portrayals felt real instead of simplistic caricatures. The memorable male characters are Kevin Costner as the director of the Space Task Group, Mahershala Ali as Katharine’s love interest and Glen Powell as John Glenn. None of them ever overshadowed the women, but adds a perspective of the gender/racial issues of the time. On a side note, this movie made me curious to check out The Right Stuff now which chronicles the space race.

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I’m glad I waited to do my top 10 list until January as this film merits a spot on there. Boasting beautiful cinematography by Mandy Walker and rousing music by Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer, film also looks AND sounds great. It’s an important film to be sure, but also a well-written and well-acted piece that’s as inspiring as it is entertaining. It made me laugh and cry and an ending that made me want to get up and cheer. I certainly don’t mind watching this again.

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Have you seen Hidden Figures? What did you think?

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30 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Hidden Figures (2016)

  1. I went to the theaters today to see La La Land and Rogue One (reviews will come in a few days) as there were a couple of women behind me that wanted to see Hidden Figures as they were saddened to learn that the screening had sold out. I felt bad for them as they also had the time wrong thinking it was 30 minutes later as they had arrived late. I’m surprised the film is doing that well as I like hearing about these films that come out of nowhere w/ no expectations and then become this bonafide hit all of a sudden. I don’t think I’ll go out and see it immediately but I’ll check it out later on TV.

    1. I had a feeling that this film would do well on MLK weekend considering its subject matter, but it also won last weekend. I’m glad it did because it deserves to be seen. It’s actually an entertaining & uplifting movie that doesn’t feel heavy-handed, despite some harrowing scenes of how these women were treated.

  2. I love it when important movies have that re-watch value attached to it and for Hidden Figures, even the trailer couldn’t hide the fact that it does possess that. I’m genuinely excited to watch it and so happy that it’s doing this good on box office.
    The moment it releases in India, I’ll be the first to enter the cinema! 😛

    1. Hello Shivani! I’m glad that films that highlight an important racial issue can be entertaining and fun. It has a lot of humor thanks to the script and the three main actresses who have such great personalities! I hope you do seek this out as soon as it arrives in a theater near you!

    1. Hi Mark! It’s nice to see films like this that highlight an important historical moment but in a crowd-pleasing manner. It’s truly a special film.

    1. Yay! Glad to hear, your walking buddy has a great taste 🙂 I love the three actresses here Cindy, nice to see female-driven films reign at the box office!!

  3. Great review, Ruth! You’ve certainly swayed me to give this one a shot if I get the opportunity. I understand it’s an important film and story to tell, but the film’s marketing just kind of made me dismiss it. I don’t know. Sometimes trailers are crucial as a selling point, and it didn’t sell it for me, but your review certainly did 🙂

    1. Hi Courtney! It’s funny but I actually liked the first trailer, but I didn’t see any other promos after that. I guess it helps that I love the female cast + Mahershala Ali, on top of having an intriguing and important story, so it was an easy sell for me.

  4. This film should tell studio heads that there are still hungry audiences out there for films that speak to them. It is also, as you rightly point out, a very timely release that gives an optimistic and empowering message to women and minorities. To top it off, it is also a film the reminds us of the power that bold enterprises can have to stir the interest and the passion of an entire nation. Such was the unifying impact of the space program.
    Nice review Ruth. This film is definetily on my watch-list. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes indeed! A well-written story that’s well-acted about an important topic, glad that the audience respond to this film the way they did. I hope you get to see this one soon!

  5. Such a lovely movie! I think it’s just gross that Henson is probably not gonna get nominated for this, the entire cast was amazing but she carried that movie

    1. Yay! Glad you love this one Margaret. I agree Henson should’ve gotten a GG nom, hopefully she would get an Oscar nom though I think that is unlikely :\

              1. I’ll probably do that, though I’ve got plenty of films I still have yet to see. Been suffering with a virus of late so haven’t had the chance to go to the cinema.

  6. Pingback: Guest Review: FENCES (2017) – FlixChatter Film Blog

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