It makes sense that the dramatic Hidden Figures is a math movie, because it follows the classic feel-good formula to a tee.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its merits; in fact, if you’re not rushing out of the theatre after the movie’s over to look up Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), then we didn’t see the same movie. Based on the real-life stories of these women, who transcended racial and gender discrimination to reach the heights of NASA (technically its predecessor, NACA) you can’t help but cheer for them while simultaneously wondering why you were never taught any of their histories.
The achievements made by these women are nothing short of remarkable, and despite the film’s shortcomings it’s heartwarming to witness one of the more positive stories in history.
It’s not dull?
It’s not an easy thing to make math interesting, and of course the layperson will have no idea if the formulas on the board (which are long, meandering lines of unintelligible x’s, y’s and mathematical symbols) mean anything. But surprisingly it doesn’t get dull at all, thanks to the upbeat, charismatic trio who leads the film. Even as they’re frantically making their way through calculations, you fret right along with them.
Are you sure it’s not dull?
Yes, it’s really not. The characters are fun and their stories are absorbing enough that you forget they’re just plugging in numbers. They’re putting men on the moon! Or, at least, getting men into orbit and back to Earth safely. But what the women accomplished allowed humanity to reach the moon eventually, and you know based on history that their math paved way for the future missions.
The spitfire combination of Henson, Spencer and Monáe is a director’s dream, with the three women ready at a moment’s notice to own the scene, to stare the lens down until it shatters. It’s safe to say the movie never would have survived without the acting force on display here. The only weakness of Hidden Figures is its predictability: we’re robbed of suspense because we know what happens, and surely in a movie as saccharine as this, nothing bad will happen to the main characters, right?
Is this a movie guys can see too?
Of course. It’s feel-good for everyone. Main male co-stars Kevin Costner and Jim Parsons are basically there as impediments for the women, but it’s OK. This movie has more than enough personality to go around.
How accurate are the events of the film?
We can’t be certain that events depicted in the movie are 100 per cent accurate, but generally, if you’re using a broad brush, the foundational story is true. The three women existed and went on to greatness in their chosen fields. The romantic elements are entertaining embellishment, but it’s not all fluff. Disturbingly accurate is the reminder, present throughout the film, of how African-Americans and women had to struggle against oppressive systems.
READ MORE: 11 of the biggest celebrity breakups in 2016
So what’s the bottom line?
Around Christmastime, many of us want to enjoy life with family or friends and feel good. Hidden Figures is the perfect movie choice if you’re going to hit the theatre; it’s doubtful there’s any other film coming out over the holidays that’ll match the uplifting feeling this one provides.
Hidden Figures opens in theatres on Dec. 25.