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Rafini's Movie Review: Hidden Figures

Updated on January 11, 2017

Hidden Figures

Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe
Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe

Based on a True Story

Hidden Figures, a film about the passive side of racism, was written and directed by Theodore Melfie, St. Vincent (2014) and Winding Roads (1999), with screenwriting assistance from Allison Schroeder, Mean Girls 2 (2011). For whatever reason the film, based on the non-fictional book with the same title written by Margot Lee Shetterly, employed a limited release date of December 25, 2016 before a wide release date of January 6, 2017. The film follows the daily lives of three women working for NASA during the programs early space missions and tells the disjointed yet interlinked stories of their personal struggles and their struggles for equality within a government owned and run institution. Set in 1961 Virginia, the three main stars of the film, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, do a tremendous job representing the previously unheard voices of their real-life characters, as does Kevin Costner as the space task director.

A Day at Work

Just another day at work
Just another day at work

The Good and the Bad

While watching the film I was disappointed in the lack of a more solid soundtrack and how the setting was unnecessarily and clumsily revealed through dialogue and obligatory scenes rather than in new and creative techniques. I wondered whether the drama would have been enhanced by period music, or if music would have interfered with the story. I seriously couldn’t see music interfering with the story as some was used, however, I would have preferred hearing a little more – perhaps even unknown music from the time rather than music written specifically for the film. Despite my disappointments, I enjoyed watching Hidden Figures. Because it was a previously unknown story, to me, anyway.

Hostile Work Environment

"Separate but equal"
"Separate but equal"

A Hostile Work Environment

I found it fascinating that the government hired a number of talented black employees yet kept them completely segregated by way of creating a separate division specifically for their talents, rather than the color of their skin, and identified them as a group according to their abilities. This anonymity, along with the customary segregated lunchrooms, toilets and drinking fountains, created a hostile environment for these women to work in on a daily basis. And yet they continued going back and pushing against the societal structure they despised and were forced to abide by. I couldn’t help but admire their strength of character as I watched each woman approach their situation with a healthy dose of cynicism laced humor. Then I wondered what I would have done had it been me.

The Director's Choice

Hidden Figures highlights the theme of racism through a sequence of scenes completely unrelated to the film, such as a random anti-segregation protest in the background, a ride in the back of the bus, and a librarian enforcing the Jim Crow “separate but equal” policy. Not one of these scenes furthers the story, nor presents any previously unknown or necessary information about the characters or the setting. At this point in the film I wondered whether Costner was the director because, except for Dances with Wolves and Field of Dreams, I am not exactly a fan of his work, and I also wondered whether the director was inexperienced or simply following suggestions from Costner. Many reviewers check out this information beforehand, however I choose not to know, unless given no choice. I had no issues with the cinematography, editing, or lighting, and felt that the parallel story concept was sometimes confusing. What I think the film did do well was the juxtaposition of race, class, and gender. Although race and gender were quite obvious, one only need consider the unlikelihood of someone raised in poverty to grow up, earn a college degree and work for NASA in order to recognize how class played a part in this story.

Hidden Figures Official Trailer

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Final Thoughts

I have so many more thoughts and critiques regarding this film than this review has room for, and can’t help comparing this film to others I’ve seen with the same subject matter. Would I watch the film again? Probably. Because I enjoyed the humorous jabs at the racist institutions, the acting and cinematography as a whole, and because I still find it fascinating that an entire group of people survived the workforce hostility they faced on a daily basis only to come out on top. Hidden Figures is inspiring, to say the least, and I gave it eight out of ten stars for the storyline alone. The lack of music and the unnecessary, clumsy dialogue and obligatory scenes detract from the main story a little bit, and are the only reasons why I did not give this film a ten-star rating. I seriously feel that a better music selection, and a more creative script, would have greatly enhanced this film. I recommend seeing Hidden Figures, whether you’re a history buff, a collector of Civil Rights information, or simply someone who is passionate about the human condition, I believe you will find something to enjoy about this film. I hope you enjoy it.

Separate but Equal?

Separated by talent, identified by abilities.
Separated by talent, identified by abilities.

How do you rate the movie?

4 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Hidden Figures


Submit a Comment

  • Rafini profile image

    Rafini 6 months ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

    Glad they are finally getting their rightful recognition! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 6 months ago from England

    I didn't know about the film, but funnily enough I saw a recent episode of Timeless, a time travel series that mentions one of these ladies, and I remember thinking how weird times were back then! those women did a hell of a lot of work and intelligence, and I thought that it covers all women back then even white ones, men ruled simple as that! she says tongue in cheek! lol!

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