film reel image

film reel image

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hidden Figures 2016 * * * Stars

Hidden FiguresDirector: Theodore Melfi
Year: 2016
Rated PG
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst

Wow, it seems like forever since I've viewed a PG-rated film that wasn't cloaked in animation.

That film in question, is Hidden Figures (my latest review). As a true events story based on female African-Americans working at NASA, it's something that any one of any age, could like. You could definitely take the family to it. You could see it on IMAX. And oh yeah, you could show "Hidden" in classrooms if you were a history teacher.

A late 2016 release geared up for Oscar, Hidden Figures is a movie that shows some Disney flair but is actually distributed by 20th Century Fox. There were times when I was reminded of The Right Stuff (scenes of John Glen's Friendship 7 spaceflight are presented) and yes, there were times when I felt like I was watching a women's version of Remember the Titans.

The outcome of "Hidden" may be a little predictable, a little too happy happy, and a little too obvious in the ways things work themselves out. There's also a romantic subplot featured that kind of feels underdeveloped. Oh well. That doesn't mean you can't embrace "Hidden's" infectious, feel good nature.

Image result for hidden figures 2016 movie scenes
Director Theodore Melfi (2014's St. Vincent) gives Hidden Figures a pristine look, capturing the early 1960's segregation and dwindling, racial discrimination in lower Virginia. He also captures effectively, a few space travel sequences via the well known Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, FL. There is conflict in this film but it doesn't overwhelm you. The stakes are just high enough with the olden style tunes of Pharrell Williams happily playing in the background.

As for the performances, well they are admirable and the characters the actors inhabit, are variably likable. Taraji P. Henson is all aces playing brilliant mathematician Katherine Johnson. She gets tapped to calculate the numbers needed to send a U.S. man into space. Octavia Spencer plays real-life Dorothy Vaughan, a supervisor at Langley Research Center. Janelle Monae channels Mary Jackson, a successful engineer who also works at Langley. Finally, Kevin Costner takes on the role of Al Harrison, the fictional director of NASA's Space Task Group. Based on the amount of ticket receipts that Hidden Figures has already brought in ($84 million), it's good to see Costner finally getting his box office sea legs back. "Hidden" is heads and tails above his other fare like Black or White and Criminal.

Image result for hidden figures 2016 movie scenesIn conclusion, I read a fellow critic's review on another website I write for. He deciphered what the title of Hidden Figures means. My similar take is this: Hidden Figures translates into the math equations done by Katherine Johnson that no one knows about. All anyone saw on TV in 1962, was how John Glen successful orbited the Earth three times. My other take is as follows: "Hidden" has to do the oppressed females themselves. They were hidden mind you. They were (and some still are) educated, brilliant, and astute. Because of the color of their skin, it was tough for them to forge ahead in the narrow-minded South. Now do I think Hidden Figures is Academy Award worthy? Somewhat. There are hints that the proceedings feel all too perfect, saccharine-like, and pat. Do I think "Hidden" is entertaining, breezy, and worthy of feeling? Yes of course. Heck, we'll all know the outcome on Feb. 26. My rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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