Make no mistake about it, Hidden Figures is definitely an answer to the outcry over the lack of black actors present at the Academy Awards last year. Had the movie been less fun, perhaps this would have felt like a film with an agenda. However, it manages to soar above racial barriers and pretenses to deliver a really entertaining ‘feel good’ story.
Between all the more serious movies about African American struggles this year, it’s refreshing to see a film take a different artistic approach in order to tell an important and compelling piece of history. Hidden Figures tells the true story of a group of African-American women who worked with NASA to help launch the program’s first successful space missions. Usually films with such important figures are given a much deeper story treatment, but the film’s stars Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, and Janelle Monáe manage to keep things light and focused at the same time. Yes, it’s an unabashed crowd-pleaser, but its charm far outweighs its problems.
Set during the 1960s’, racial tension is high in the USA and NASA is racing to send a man into space. Against this backdrop, Hidden Figures follows three women (a widowed mathematician, a technician and a computer expert) who broke down barriers of sex and race in order to find their place in history. Except their names didn’t make it into the history books and these unsung heroes never got the credit they deserved. Until now.
Despite the film being a casual retelling, the performances do shine. Spencer, Henson, and Monáe all carry the story along perfectly while the soundtrack by Pharrell Williams keeps audiences in the groove. Hidden Figures isn’t a tearjerker or a comedy either. Somehow it has managed to plant itself dead-center in the middle of the two. It’s both serious and fun. And that works.