Hidden Figures (2016)
Directed by Theodore Melfi
Based on the book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Screenplay by Theodore Melfi, Allison Schroeder
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Mahershala Ali, Kirsten Dunst
The true story of a group of African-American women working to shape NASA at the height of the space race.
This film is based on the non-fiction book, Hidden Figures, written by Margot Lee Shetterly. The book was adapted for the movie by Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) and Allison Schroeder (Mean Girls 2). Theodore Melfi also directed the movie, earning his first Oscar nomination for Best Director. The cast includes Taraji P. Henson (Hustle & Flow), Octavia Spencer (The Help), and Janelle Monáe (Moonlight). Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves), Mahershala Ali (The Place Beyond the Pines), and Kirsten Dunst (Midnight Special) are also featured in this film.
This story is a fascinating look at a group of women who sought to overcome the racial and gender discrimination that had prevented them from finding their true potential. The writing does a nice job of examining their situation without turning into an extreme feel-good story. That isn’t to say that this is a dark and sad film. This screenplay just finds a nice balance to deal with all sides of this unique and fascinating period of American history.
The movie also doesn’t push for a clean resolution of the injustices of the story. There are nice resolutions for some aspects of the story, but the movie lives and dies with the reality of the situation. It’s always nice to see a story that is willing to let the facts determine the outcome. Overall, this is one of the more solid biographical films of the last few years. For their work, Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
As always, it’s important to note that I don’t give much time to the historical accuracy of biographical films. Like most, the essence of the story is real, while some moments might be condensed or embellished to push the plot. This is a part of adaptation and the creative film process that should be expected and accepted within reason.
This film features an all-star cast that really brings the screenplay to life. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe are a power trio that lead this one from the very beginning. Each of their character’s stories are unique, as are their performances. In addition to the difficult emotional moments, the stars also did a nice job with the fun and lighter moments. They’re joined by Kevin Costner, Mahershala Ali, and Kirsten Dunst. These three all deliver great performances, as do a large number of other cast members in the film. This cast seemed to have great chemistry throughout the movie, and there are no weak moments from the stars. Octavia Spencer was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her work in this one.
This movie brings the forgotten era of the space race to life with wonderful costuming, sets, props, and locations. The attention to detail helps to envelope the audience in the moment. The camera work and other aspects of production also come together nicely. The film also features an excellent score by Hans Zimmer (The Holiday), Pharrell Williams (Despicable Me) and Benjamin Wallfisch (A Cure for Wellness). It was a bit of a surprise to see their work missing from the Academy Award nominations list.
This is a very good movie that does all the things I hope for in a bio-pic. If you’re a fan of biographical movies, this is one to see. I would also suggest this one to fans of movies like Apollo 13. This is also a great recommendation for fans of the stars I’ve mentioned. Their performances are all wonderful. This doesn’t always take the easy road, and it adds to the quality of the drama in the story. I give this one 4.4 out of 5 stars.