Director Theodore Melfi’s latest film is a biographical drama that stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as three women who acted as the brains behind one of the greatest jobs in NASA history.
“Hidden Figures” tells the remarkable true story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. The three African-American women worked at NASA and served in sending astronaut John Glenn into orbit. This spectacular accomplishment revived the nation’s confidence and sent the Space Race back into full gear. The three women crossed the lines of race and gender, going on to motivate future generations to achieve their dreams.
“Hidden Figures” does not make the mistake of letting one cast member steal the entire film. Henson, Spencer and Monáe all carry the film on their shoulders, and the three share a strong bond with one another. Their roles as mathematician, supervisor and engineer all merge together wonderfully.
The ladies do their jobs well, with Spencer reminding audiences why they fell in love with her in 2011’s “The Help.” But Henson in particular has the most chances to shine. While Henson is not the main focus of the film, the actress does have the opportunity to showcase a different side of herself. Her role is a strong contrast from the sassy Cookie she portrays on Fox’s “Empire.” Here, Henson is still commanding, but with a veil of compassion and gratitude over her assertiveness. She becomes sympathetic and easy to root for throughout the film. This is most evident in the scene where she gives a glorious speech about separate bathrooms.
Furthermore, the film deals with its true story with elegance and complete respect. The film does not come off as hokey or overdramatic. It feels more like a documentary and less like a Lifetime TV movie. The film presents the facts and is certainly compelling, serving as a reminder to another time in America where sending a person to the moon occurred regularly.
The film’s only downside is the way it feels slightly “standard” at times. The film does a fantastic job at portraying the women’s struggles in trying to complete their jobs and live in a world still full of racism. However, there were chances for more character moments. The opportunity to showcase further hardship and growth might have elevated the film to a higher level. The way the film is presented might seem like a “paint-by-numbers” biopic for some audiences. Yet this is a minor fault and does little to detract from the amazing true events that the film is based on. These events are still captivating to watch.
Overall, “Hidden Figures” features a resonant story full of passion and relevancy even in today’s world. The cast does a remarkable job, each offering a specific flavor to the film. The film is admirable for its ability to take a largely unknown story and convey it well. Audiences will receive an emotional payoff that will leave them walking away satisfied. In short: “Hidden Figures” is a triumph.