By Ciera Barnett
I know I’m extremely late with publishing this review, but I just wanted to give everyone a chance to see the film before I give my thoughts.
I went to see Hidden Figures on one of its limited edition opening days while I was in Atlanta. Now I am normally not the person to be pressed to see a film in the theater, especially not as soon as it comes out, but the previews had me feeling like it was a must see–I was right.
This movie did so many things and came at the perfect time. It’s definitely become a black movie canon staple.
First, let’s discuss casting. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae. When I first got word, I was a bit surprised. I knew Octavia Spencer was a great actress, so I had no doubts about her being able to fulfill the role. However, I did have doubts about Janelle and Taraji playing the role.
I know Janelle as a singer, not as an actress, and because this was going to be such a significant movie, I was worried about letting someone who had never done a major film before this on, but she delivered.
And then Taraji– of course she’s a great actress with a lot of experience. I am in no way trying to undermine her skills, but my skepticism for her playing this role stemmed from the fact that most of her roles are of a sassy and play-no-games women. Also, Taraji had never really played a historical role, she was always able to grow into and create the character that was written, rather than become and embody the live of a real person. But she surprised me.
The way the movie was written characterized all three women perfectly. The movie came out around the same time that the woman who Taraji played, Katherine Johnson, was being honored for her work, so I was afraid that the movie would revolve around her, but to my pleasant surprise, it didn’t. All three women were leading ladies and had their own story line.
Janelle’s character, Mary Jackson, struggled against legal and social adversity to earn the proper credentials to become an engineer. One of the lines that stuck out the most to me was “It’s like every time we get close to achieving something, they move the finish line.” Regardless of what it took – taking night classes, integrating a school, going to court – she achieved her goal of becoming a NASA engineer. One important aspect that really stuck out to me was the fact that her girlfriends supported her the entire time, which is something many women need to get back to today.
Octavia Spencer’s character, Dorothy Vaughn, was the epitome of My Sister’s Keeper. Once realizing that she was fulfilling the role of a supervisor, but not getting the appropriate pay, she wanted to fight that. But upon finding out that not only her job, but the jobs of all the women in her department were going to be removed within a month, she put her personal goals aside and went as far as stealing books to make sure that her team was prepared to work with the new technology. Little did the higher-ups at NASA know, Vaughn’s team would be the group that made the new technology work smoothly. She risked her own job to look out for the women she was in charge of, if that’s not sisterhood, I don’t know what is.
And then we have Taraji. The actress I have come to know and love as Cookie Lyon and all her other sassy roles. I honestly feel that her playing this role will start a chain reaction of Taraji getting all sorts of roles because she has proved herself able to play characters outside of her traditional casting. I feel like more black actresses need an opportunity, similar to what Taraji had with Hidden Figures, to show their versatility. While I love seeing Taraji go off on everyone, and Gabrielle Union does a great job at playing the single looking for love, it’s getting old quickly. Taraji, whose known to be outspoken, became a different person when playing Katherine Johnson, a timid woman from the 1960s. This role showed Taraji’s true skill, that Howard training served her well.
Overall, this was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen and I’d certainly watch it again. A perfect balance between social justice and fun. The casting was perfect and so was the script. The movie answered every question you could have and was detailed enough for a real space enthusiast to be entertained, but simple enough for the general public to enjoy and understand. This movie really got me thinking, even down the title, Hidden Figures couldn’t have been better.
I know I’ve said a lot, but this movie has so much substance that you have to watch it still to understand everything. Each little element was perfect.