First, off, sorry about the extreme lateness of this. I was sick for most of last week, and the Mission to Mars review was the last thing I wrote before sick brain took over. The Untouchables review was posted before this one in order to stay on schedule. Since then, spring semester has started, and I have lots of work to do.
What makes Hidden Figures an interesting specimen is the tone. The movie follows three black women who worked at NASA during the American/Russian battle for space control. Because of these women, the U.S. was able to be the first global superpower to put a man into Earth’s orbit. This took place well after the Civil War, but the tension of inequality is still present everywhere in this movie. It could be because of the PG-13 rating, but this movie never gets really violent, profane, or gritty. As a consequence, the dramatic heft is not nearly as impactful as other movies of this sort. Initially I thought this was holding the movie back, but it actually works. This movie doesn’t take place during a war like Glory, nor are its white characters as racist as the ones in The Help. Instead, these women have to overcome prejudice in the workplace, at the school setting, and in being recognized. Oh, there are “big” moments, and they are used at just the right times. Honestly, I appreciate the way this movie was written. As a positive guy, I don’t think every movie needs to have the heartbreaking dramatic heft of Glory (although we still need movies like that every now and then).
The fact that everyone was bringing their A game to this project helps quite a lot. Every one of the actors has a unique role to play and a unique personality. To me, the best performances come from Octavia Spencer (an overworked/underpaid leader of the “Negro computer team”), Jim Parsons (finally breaking type-casting as a prejudiced NASA manager), and Kevin Costner (the devoted director of the space project who doesn’t care about race or sex, only proficiency). The work from these three is some of the best in their careers. Hidden Figures is worth watching purely for the cast which also includes Mahershala Ali, Kirsten Dunst, and Taraji P. Henson.
I didn’t like this movie as much as I wanted to. It’s a fine biopic with a great score and more lighthearted direction than expected. There were a few moments that dragged (to the point of feeling redundant), but I see the effort on and off-screen. Considering how many black films we got last year, I’d say this was one of the best. Hidden Figures gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B+.