Film Review: Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures is the inspirational true story of three female mathematicians and their struggle to be rightfully recognised for their work with NASA during the Space Race in 1960’s America.
Based on Margot Lee Shetterly's sensational book, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the film focuses on three real-life African-American female heroes: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who were part of NASA's team of human "computers." This was a group made up of mostly women who calculated by hand the complex equations that allowed space heroes like Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, and John Glenn to travel safely to space. Through their determination, fierce intellectual capability and sheer tenacity, they ensured their stamp on American history.
Although a remarkable and a significant tale, the story has remained relatively unknown until now. Theodore Melfi is the man behind the director’s chair, providing a delightful and intensely moving picture that signifies what it means to be a woman defying odds. Melfi (St Vincent) approaches Lee Shetterly’s novel with poignant sense of realism, depicting scenes of racism and segregation in 1960’s Virginia. Early on we are introduced to child prodigy Katherine Gobel (Johnson’s maiden name), brilliantly played by the always exuberant Teraji P. Henson. It is clear Johnson is our leading lady, leading the SAG-winning cast with her head held deservingly high. However, it is the supporting cast, consisting of the fabulous Octavia Spencer in her Oscar nominated role, and multi-talented Janelle Monae, that push Henson’s portrayal past a cliché re-telling of a predictable story, turning it into something raw and new. It is clear this is a film about girl power, and it is through the strong love and friendship between the three that brings out the most inspiring elements of the film.
Heavyweight Kevin Costner delivers his usual “tough boss with a kind heart” character with a stern poignancy that has been a staple in films since his The Bodyguard days. Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia) and The Big Bang Theories’ Jim Parsons also deliver with their turns as the uptight traditionalists determined to stand in the way of our three ladies. Through Peter Teshner’s quick editing (Road Trip, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story), a comical approach to the rather serious material is produced, creating as many laughs as there are tears.
The underlying theme within this true story is ultimately race. During a very segregated time in America’s history, lead by figures such as Martin Luther King, change was imminent, but the obstacles the African American community faced were still as prominent as ever. This is rather fitting then, as last years #OscarsSoWhite has been overruled this awards season, as the prestigious Academy Awards features a record six black actors nominated in the four main acting categories (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role).
Hidden Figures is a triumphant and delightful story that has been executed poignantly by the exquisite cast, making it easy for the audience to understand why they won the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Cast over favourite, La La Land. They may not be the favourites to win the Oscar come Monday, but if on the odd chance they do win, I will not be disappointed.
Rating: 4/5 stars, a delightful film to feel inspired after watching!
Hidden Figures is nominated three Oscars including Best Picture. Keep your eyes peeled for the girls this Monday at the Academy Awards!
Listen to the ~Girl Power~ fuelled SAG acceptance speech here: