Title: Hidden Figures
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Director: Theodore Melfi
based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly
Cinematography: Mandy Walker
Taraji P. Henson
Soaring as the highest grosser among 2016’s Oscar BEST PICTURE nominees in North America (edging $170 million), HIDDEN FIGURES is a biographical treatment of 3 black female mathematicians working at NASA during the Space Race, whose unassailable contribution is glaringly juxtaposed with harsh working-place discrimination in a segregated America barely 55 years ago (the fact still stings).
The film’s impeccable triumvirate are Katherine Goble (Henson), who is still with us today at the age of 98, a genius in mathematics plays a consequentially key part in astronaut John Glenn’s (Powell) launch and return from the orbit; Mary Jackson (Monáe), who is aspiring to become the first Black female engineer in America and Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer), an under-appreciated supervisor-to-be, hampered by her skin color. All three are spirited, honest-to-God gals who would eventually satisfyingly win their overdue respect for their competence in the cutting-edge sphere, flags up the quintessential American spirit – winner takes the all. On paper, the story would easily fall into the pigeonhole of a hagiography with all the crevices papered over in pursuit of the straight-forward political correctness, but miraculously under the able hands of director and co-screenwriter Theodore Melfi (his second feature film), the final product is immensely enthralling and rewarding, although a deeper probing of characterization is skated over, but by dint of its tub-thumping milieu and the mounting injustice (both racism and sexism in the rarefied high-tech rung) these three women take in their dignified stride, everyone can find a congenital connection with them and involuntarily roots for them because if there is any justice in this world, this is it!
Shy of expository screed on technicality, and juicy in its confrontational sparkling and homely felicity, HIDDEN FIGURES is a high achievement of orthodox entertainment from Hollywood, gives access to the lowest common denominator without being fluffy or patronizing, ambidextrously balances its innately rousing source material with glistening performances: Taraji P. Henson is a formidable force to be reckoned with and particularly eloquent in her big moment of outpourings good and proper; Octavia Spencer, exudes incredible panache against her stock appearance, reaps the token nomination for the Oscar glory; but it is high time to give a backslapping to Janelle Monáe, only her second film credit (after MOONLIGHT 2016) for the famed chanteuse, her Mary is a firebrand but not scanty with humor and sobriety, that scene facing off a judge in the court is in my druthers, the single best delivery of the entire film, which she nails with unbelievable confidence and earnestness. Meantime, let’s not begrudge our thumbs-up to the lighter-skinned counter-performers, Kevin Costner, channels his “white face” proponent with a heartfelt vibe in measured sagacity, and two “black face” antagonists, played by Jim Parsons and Kirsten Dunst, might not be as one-note as they let on, the modulation in their attitude shows up inviting subtlety in the script-writing.
HIDDEN FIGURES, a film encourages, inspires and galvanizes its audience with a cogent message about real-life encountering with the ever-present benightedness, surprisingly not so long time ago, its timing couldn’t be more opportune if we must firmly believe the world is changing into a better place, it does give us some spark of hope, doesn’t it?