Hidden Figures is no-tricks filmmaking at its very best; an underdog at the year’s Oscars which, while lacking the same technical or creative wizardry of its other competition, La La Land most of all, may just cause an upset. Yes, the production of this true story is decidedly ordinary and we’ve seen similar stories told many times over, but the fact that this remarkable tale is allowed to breath away from any kind of unnecessary directorial manipulation could just work to its favour.
It’s 1960’s Virgina. America is in the middle of the space race against Russia, and so far it’s losing. With the pressure mounting on NASA to put an astronaut into orbit before their opposition, help appears in the form of Katherine Goble, a brilliant mathematician whose genius hasn’t been recognised simply due to the fact that she is a woman of colour. Along with her two friends and colleagues, Mary and Dorothy (both black and both brilliantly intelligent) the trio slowly begin breaking down barriers within the predominantly white organisation.
Now the fact of the matter is that the above idea is so fascinating in its own right, that it needs very little addition to make it compelling or entertaining – and so it is allowed to be played straight for the most part. But whilst Hidden Figures is very by-numbers in the way it’s told, it’s also important to acknowledge how its representation of women, women of colour, who possess intelligence far greater than that of the film’s white males, is unique, unheard of, and worthy of great praise in its own right.
The fact that young women (the film is PG, so perfect for almost all ages) will be able to watch this and see women in positions where they use their brain as opposed to their bodies, makes this one of the most progressive films to have been released in recent years.
That’s all before you even take into account the wonderful performances, not just from the terrific leading three ladies, but from their supporting cast as well. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe are integral parts in the Hidden Figures machine. Without the bags full of charisma and wit that they bring to the film with their performances, it wouldn’t work half as well as it does. And then you have the likes of Kevin Costner (doing what Costner does best here) and Kirsten Dunst, who are both on top form and clearly have a lot of fun with the best roles they’ve had in a while.
Also wonderful is the screenplay from Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, adapted from the book by Margot Lee Shetterley, which, impressively, is powerful without overstretching the point. The way it presents the racism and discrimination of the time has a casuality about it, an acceptance whereby people are racist and accepting of segregation without being obviously mean – something which comes to a head in one of the film’s most brilliant scenes between Spencer and Dunst.
It’s in this aspect where Hidden Figures stands its biggest chance of taking home a golden statue on February 26th, with a nomination for best adapted screenplay. Regardless of the awards though, the film remains a very fine piece of work across the board. The performances are superb, as is the writing, but the fact that it could end up inspiring young girls to look toward the stars and dream of being amongst them one day is the film’s biggest gift of all.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com