Seen March 22nd
Who knew that one of the most dramatic movies I would see in recent years would involve large amounts of complex algebra?
I’ll admit when I heard about Hidden Figures and what it was about, I was stunned. Stunned that I had never even heard of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan or Mary Jackson in my life. Maybe I was just in the wrong school or taking the wrong class but here I thought that maybe the story of 3 African American women who are basically responsible for putting a man on the moon would be a little more widely known. Maybe I’m just stupid but it seems weird that fact should shock me… I’m a little glad I didn’t know though as my ignorance might have made me love the film even more. I’m painfully aware some elements were probably dramatized but still, it felt like an education I sorely needed. Still should’ve known it sooner (They literally advertise this as “Meet the women you don’t know behind the mission you do” and I’m sorry, we should know these women a lot more than we do)
This film is a masterpiece on almost every front. The acting is phenomenal from the entire main cast. Taraji P. Henson kills it as Katherine Johnson, there is a scene in the movie where she breaks down in the middle of the work room and just screams that there isn’t a colored bathroom in the building which is why she has to have 40-minute pee breaks. It’s easily one of the most powerful moments in the movie and relies solely on Taraji. Sidebar, the fact that Taraji didn’t get even a nomination for an Oscar or Golden Globe for this performance is a goddamn crime. I may not have seen any of the other performances nominated but I can’t imagine that they couldn’t make a spot for her. Maybe they could’ve just not nominated Meryl, I know she’s amazing but she’s been nominated 20 damn times, I think she could’ve skipped this one.
Octavia Spencer is absolute perfection as Dorothy Vaughan. All she has to do is give a look and you know everything she’s thinking and more. She has this ability to somehow sound polite as can be, but her eyes clearly scream “I’ve had it up to here with your crap” at least 3 times, including a fascinating library scene where she earned her nominations in spades.
As for Janelle Monae… why the hell did no one tell me she could act? Why is she not in everything already? This woman has exactly 5 roles to her name, 3 of them are basically just playing herself (Or a Dr Monae in Rio 2). But her performance as Mary Jackson proves that this might be another one of those rare breeds of performer who can not only sing but can act like nothing else. I sadly haven’t seen Moonlight but apparently she’s in that too, I have a feeling she’s going to be in a ton more movies because she absolutely lights up the screen any time she’s on it. If I didn’t know better I’d say she’s been acting for decades, she’s that good.
The writing was spectacular; they didn’t turn anyone into a cliché which would’ve been so easy. They didn’t rely on sassy lines like so many movies like this would do, they wrote real people with real problems and made them so likeable. They made me care about math. They made a 2 hour movie about three women working out how to land a rocket using math into something you couldn’t look away from. It’s a truly great film. The score was really well done, it wasn’t too on the nose and felt like it fit with the movie which was so very beautifully shot, some of the shots were just incredible to behold.
Honestly the only issue I had with it was the repeated use of old footage. It’s jarring to go from 16:9 to 4:3 over and over again, and when there are several moments when they just recreated old footage with the new actors it makes no sense to not keep that going Either use nothing but old footage for those moments or recreate all of it but going back and forth is a little jarring. That’s literally the only nitpick that I have, a ratio issue that might only annoy me and no one else. I don’t know how much longer this will be in cinemas but if you can see it, go now.