Hidden Figures. Visible Talents.
The feel-good movie of the Oscar race, one that offers a few tugs at your heartstrings. Telling the story of three real-life black female mathematicians who worked as computers during the early days of NASA. (Yes, the machines are named after a human profession, which also happens to be one of the first victims of automation).
Janelle Monáe is surprisingly good, instantly becoming one of the most cherished crossovers from pop music to acting. Octavia Spencer doing a sassy reprise of the mom-of-the-pack character she so effectively did in The Help. But the star of the piece is the incredibly human Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Goble. I wouldn’t hold it against you if at some point you forgot she was acting. In a considerably natural role, and with most of the levity heavy lifting being carried by Monae and Spencer’s characters, Henson’s Goble was allowed to fully shine in her dramatic spotlight.
I’m not a crier, but I certainly got teary eyed during the possibly peak scene of the movie when Henson finally lets it rip and chews the scenery of Space Task Group facility, followed by Kevin Costner’s character literally tearing down racism. Quite an effective device by the director, turning one of the most mundane activities a person can do into a drive for conflict and also a terrific way to showcase the difficulties experienced by black people, especially black women, back then. At the same time, I appreciate that racism isn’t relegated to one or two caricature figures of over-the-top discrimination, but treated as a more subtle, yet pervasive atmosphere that affects everyone on screen. Because as much bombast things like the KKK exert, it was never really the crux of racism. Extremists rarely hold power and discrimination is perpetuated by all the moderates and their daily routines.
The movie also serves as another confirmation of Costner as the icon of Americana. With a nice a callback to Stone’s “JFK” during one of the earlier scenes.
All in all, Hidden Figures is an elegant tale of resilience and a touchstone for black girls everywhere who are in so much need of role models that go beyond the performative arts.