We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.
However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.
So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy. 2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.
TLDNW: 1 Word
TLDNW: 20 Words
JANELLE MONAE. Wait, Mahershala Ali is in this too? Are there only 10 black actors in Hollywood? Remember when Octavia Spencer was in Dinner for Shmucks?
TLDNW: 500 Words
Three and a half out of Four Stars
At least Hidden Figures is an enjoyable, genuinely difficult to hate, film. At most, it’s an important, fun, and interesting look at African American females in American history.
The film centres on Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughn. These three are just some of the many black women working for NASA in the early 1960’s. It is a chapter of American history that I frankly had no idea about and from my understanding it is not a very well known story. There was, I guess, a number of black women working as computers at NASA during the space race and while many of the white men got the glory for putting people like John Glenn (A GODDAMN AMERICAN HERO) into space it was these women who did most of the grunt work. This film could EASILY be another Lee Daniels’ The Butler and be an overwrought, over acted, schmaltz fest. Instead, Hidden Figures tells the story while also having a ton of fun.
That is the word that I want to focus on in this review- fun. Hidden Figures is fun. It’s got a killer Pharrell Williams soundtrack, and a tight, funny script, and JANELLE MONAE. Look at the picture I attached to this review. Look how much fun their having. LOOK. This is the most powerful aspect of the film. Where Moonlight is poignant in its in seriousness and delivers the message through intense, sharp, and hard acting – Hidden Figures sneaks in diversity messaging through a fun as hell movie.
It helps that Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae (my future wife) have such palpable chemistry. They carry the emotional and comedic weight of the film. I haven’t seen such a fun trio of characters since The Big Lebowski. It is unfortunate that Henson was pushed out by bigger roles for best actress because her turn as Katherine Johnson is outstanding – her best since Benjamin Button (remember when she was in that? Crazy.) I’m glad Octavia is receiving the recognition and I only wish more people paid attention to JANELLE MONAE.
This fun is the crux of why the film is successful and is a good companion piece for Moonlight. Where Moonlight doesn’t pander or use black characters as props in a deeply tragic and beautiful way- Hidden Figures does the same but in a fun and upbeat way.
Now, I’ll admit, there are some moments put in there just for white folks. Kevin Costner knocking down the washroom sign that says “Colored Ladies Room” because HE’S THE WHITE BOSS is a bit much. There are also a few moments that veer into pandering (Sheldon Cooper offers Cookie from Empire a cup of coffee! Look at the bridges we’ve built!) but in general the film does an incredible job of promoting diversity in film in a way that isn’t trying so hard.
Unfortunately, some will dismiss this film as fluff and miss the nuance. The fun of Hidden Figures is the sugar, and complex writing, a diverse cast, and incredible messaging is the medicine – and we could all use a little medicine.