Hidden Figures – Review

Well this is awkward isn’t it. After the absolute trainwreck that was the Oscar’s ceremony, I’m worried that any criticism I may have for this week’s choice of viewing will just flag me up as a massive racist; given that Hollywood momentarily decided that La La Land should win Best Film, what with it being one of the whitest film’s on this year’s shortlist. Yes, I know that it was just a mix up with the cards and yes, I know this is reaching for the low-hanging controversy fruit, but given the film industry’s appalling track record with racial diversity and their utter indifference to the political situation in the US (time to wheel out Michael Moore soon, lads), this kind of slip-up isn’t going to work wonders for their public persona.

Fortunately Hidden Figures turns out to be a pretty excellent film, all things considered, and is certainly one of the more interesting films I’ve seen of late. In all truthfulness, I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, partly due to the subject matter (imagine A Beautiful Mind without the twist) and partly because I was anticipating being made to feel guilty in a manner previously accomplished by 12 Years A Slave, a film which I am still apprehensive about watching for this very reason. Interestingly though, the civil rights theme is rather subtly woven into the narrative and is not as integral as one might imagine. It struck me as being very empowering without being construed as aggressive. Here we have three women in 1960’s America working at NASA, hampered at every step by the burden of segregation, and their response seems to be summed up with ‘Yeah, well, we’ve got a rocket to launch’. The brilliance of the women in question is well portrayed, and their is enough charm on display to over-ride any sense of nerdiness one might get from the subject matter. The African-American colloquialisms are prominent throughout, as one might expect, which caused me to flinch somewhat when I discovered that both writers were white. Then again, it’s not played up for laughs, nor is it mocking, simply a conveyance of personality through writing, and with that regard it does its job rather well.

The casting in this film is excellent, with the three leading ladies giving superb performances in their respective roles. The supporting cast, however, is something I could pick holes in. Kirsten Dunst’s character is well written, being naively oblivious to her passive aggression to civil rights, and she was necessary for the development of the other characters, but she constantly looked like she was squinting, which I personally found rather hilarious. Kevin Costner came as no surprise, because I think he gets cast instantly when anything vaguely JFK related gets pitched, but his character seemed a little flat in spite of being bigged up as some kind of hard-arse, and the removal of the ‘coloured bathroom’ sign, whilst powerful, seemed out of character. But my main gripe is this. You have written a by-the-numbers ambitious nerd antagonist, and the person you choose to cast for this role is Jim ‘Big Bang Theory‘ Parsons? That has got to be the laziest form of casting I have seen this side of Joe Pantoliano in any film he’s ever been in.

If this review seems a little thin on the ground, its because I really am struggling to find fault with Hidden Figures. It’s well written, compelling and above all it’s well balanced. It tells the civil rights story brilliantly, yet from a very unique perspective, and as such the viewing experience is unique as well. While none of the performances or other factors were stellar enough to warrant an Oscar, I’d say the film definitely deserves its nominations. And while we’re on the subject, I really don’t think an Oscar really holds the value that it used to, given that the list of people who have received an Academy Award includes Cher, Nicholas Cage, Three Six Mafia and (lest we fucking forget) Jennifer Lawrence. So to hell with Oscar Season, AGAIN. Just hurry up and give me Logan already…

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