Over the holiday season just past, I embarked on a month-long tour of the United States with my mother. It was when we came down to pick her first (not my first) Broadway Musical, the first one we saw was 'The Color Purple'. The whole cast was African American and the story was moving and powerful - and most of all, important. It was important because of what it was but also how it was done, casting, staging, the whole bag. On this holiday we also were lucky enough to see 'Hidden Figures', and it hit me that it too was just as important. Why? Because we need films (or shows) with ethnically diverse leads. Why else? Because we need more films (or shows) with strong female characters.
'Hidden Figures' has it all.
Set in the 1960s in an America in the full grip of segregation, NASA relies on human calculators to solve the incredibly tough mathematical problems required to get a man into space and win the space race. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson, TV's 'Empire', 'Top Five') is a mathematician of genius proportions and is held back by the two factors we have come to expect from this time period: her race and her gender. She and her fellow mathematicians (including Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe) not only prove that they are more than capable, but challenge anyone who ever had a preconception about them.
SWITCH: 'HIDDEN FIGURES' TRAILER
I found my heart rising and falling with every turn of this film. It does a wonderful job of balancing triumph with tragedy. For every step forward that's made, it almost feels like two steps are taken back. So what to do with a system design to make you fail? Break it.
I need to talk about Janelle Monae for a bit. If you’ve ever read my biography on the website (don’t worry, I don’t blame you if you haven't) you will see she is listed under my favourite music, and now I want to list her under favourite actor. She takes nothing from no one and delivers such a strong performance you’d never know she was a talented songstress as well. Speaking of music, a score by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell? I’m a Hans Zimmer fanboy from way back, but this collaboration is something that just works.
I found my heart rising and falling with every turn of this film.
It’s what’s great about this film - everything just works!
The only thing that slightly rubbed me the wrong way was the romantic story between Katherine and her new husband. Call me jaded, but I wanted to see her being more of a bad-ass maths geek that a vulnerable woman who just needs a man, something she clearly demonstrated she doesn’t. It felt a little schmaltzy in a film that could easily have been all schmazlt.
It is no wonder that ‘Hidden Figures’ keeps getting nominated for "Best Ensemble" awards. They are just a brilliant cast, and there is no one that lets anyone else down. Coupled with a script that has been beautifully adapted from the book and a score that has you with it from the beginning, ‘Hidden Figures’ is a film not to be missed. It is important that these kinds of stories are told. Without diversity, there is no strength. Without representation, there is no idea that strength can exist. But when you get a combination of both, you have the chance to inspire the entire world, maybe even beyond the world to the moon.