I’m gonna get this out of the way right up front – This movie is fucking astounding. I loved every minute of it and the worst part was when the end credits rolled. I’m dead serious. 10/10. Even my wife who isn’t nearly as much of a movie lover as I am said she loved it and that Hidden Figures is one that we will be buying on Blu-ray. This movie is just that good. I will be gushing about this film for the remainder of this review, it is just that good.
There is a lot to unpack in this film so let’s get into it!
Let’s start off with the cast. Taraji P. Henderson is astounding in this film. It feels like she effortlessly sinks into this historical personality and captures what it was like to be in her role in that time period. She brings a wonderful charm to the character, bringing the audience right along with her in her time of joy, sadness, and especially when she has to confront the racism of the day. Her explosive scene in the office space when confronted about being away from her desk for long periods of time is a scene that I did not expect. A lot of this movie is lighthearted and fun but the tone turns on a dime in that scene and it is electric. Her performance in that scene alone is worthy of her Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Its one of those scenes that has so much raw power and genuine emotion in it, that it will leave you shaken. I haven’t seen much of her work but after seeing Hidden Figures, I believe I will be on the look out for anything she is in.
Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae are both amazing as well. They both give performances that make you feel for the characters, cry with them, laugh with them, rejoice with them. Monae has one scene that almost brought me to tears. Spencer, Monae, and Henderson also have an incredible chemistry with one another. The three play off of each other so well that when they are all together, you truly believe that they have been friends for years. I even had to pause the movie after one particular scene just to marvel at how great they interacted.
Rounding out the already incredible cast is Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons. Just like I said about Kurt Russell in my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review, its great to see a veteran actor like Kevin Costner still be able to bring it like he does here. He gives warm and fatherly yet stern and leading performance as Al Harrison, the director of the Space Task Group. Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons are both solid in their performances. I’ve never been a huge fan of Dunst but she does exactly what she needs to in this role. As for Jim Parsons, its incredibly hard to separate the actor from the role with him. His role as Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is so consuming of Parsons as an actor that it is hard not to see those Sheldon mannerisms and borderline whiny-ness in his role as Paul Stafford, a head engineer but as the movie rolls on the Parsons grows into the character and you can begin to separate him from his much more prominent role.
There is something else that really struck me a few times in this film and, not to put too fine a point on it, but color is used exceptionally well. Over the course of this movie, a lot of time is spent in a large, almost cavernous room where then NASA engineers and scientists work calculating trajectories and the like. The walls of the room are a very light shade and all of the men in the room wear short sleeved white dress shirts. Now when Henderson’s character is assigned to work there, she always wears a dark or vibrantly colored clothes which serves to give a deep contrast between her and the rest of the room and subtly helps the audience empathize with the unease that Henderson feels and amplifies her status as an outsider as a black woman in a room of white men in the 1960’s. Hell, even her coffee cup is brown compared to the white or beige ones seen else where in the room.
Comparing this stark white (all puns intended) to the room in which the majority of the black NASA employees work also helps to further illustrate the divide of the times. As I said, the work room for the NASA engineers is large, cavernous, and surrounded by lighter tones whereas the room where the black employees are is dark, underground, made from cinder blocks painted brown, and feels almost like a dungeon.
This use of color is further seen in Costner’s office which overlooks the work room and in his costuming. The back wall of his office is wood paneling which gives the room more life and contrast to the other walls and his character often wears a gray vest implying that he isn’t as much of an “enemy” as the rest of the NASA workers are.
Earlier I talked about Henderson’s stand out scene and how the tone of the movie changes on a dime. Normally shifts like that would be overly jarring and pull you out of a movie but not here. Director Theodore Melfi does a fantastic job of weaving the joy and successes of these characters together with their struggles in their careers and in their lives as black women in 1960’s America. There are several scenes that effectively portray those struggles and get the message across without being heavy handed or overly preachy.
Hidden Figures did exactly what I look for a movie to do – engross me for two-ish hours and leave me with something to think about for days if not weeks after. Stand out performances, coupled with an amazing story and great direction make Hidden Figures one of the best movies I have seen in years. If you haven’t seen it, go buy it, rent it, borrow it, stream it, whatever it takes. This is a one of those rare movies that I feel I can recommend to anyone and everyone and as the father of a daughter and an engineer, I cannot wait to re-watch this movie over and over again as my daughter grows up.
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Until next time, Thank You for reading and…
SEE YOU AT THE CINEMA!