Hidden Figures (Every time we get a chance to get ahead they move the finish line)

Rating: Very Severe

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Year: 2016
Running time: 2 hour 7 minutes
Director: Theodore Melfi
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali

This is the best film I’ve seen since watching La La Land last year. My second favourite Best Picture-nominee. I loved it because it was personal to me and it’s relevant to where I am in life now. I’ll expand on this later. I’m just very grateful this film exists and I’m glad I watched it at the time in my life where it would mean the most to me.

The story follows three ‘hidden figures’: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. They were African American women who worked at NASA as mathematicians and engineers. Basically, they were the brains behind the rocket launches and they were pivotal in getting American astronauts into space and walking on the moon. However, being women, African-American AND working in STEM fields, they were definitely in the minority and they felt it in the workspace. It was harder to get promoted, to be recognised for their talents, to get an education and to be acknowledged as an equal. It’s truly inspirational to see these women, who each had their own families to look after, fight for their rights and have such confidence in their abilities. They were proud of their skills and never gave up to take what was rightfully theirs. It paved the way for future generations, making it easier for them to achieve their goals. I probably would’ve given up at some point, so I truly truly admire these women and draw on them for inspiration. The hardships we face today were nowhere as bad as back then, and yet we still complain about trivial things. We complain about having to study, about how sleepy we are, how we wish we could leave work early. These all seem like nothing compared to conditions these women had to experience. And yet they took it in their stride and saw it as a hurdle to overcome.

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Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer

Why it’s so personal to me is because I’m about to start a new chapter in my life and I’ve been a bit worried about all the changes. But after watching this, I felt a renewed passion and strength ignite within me. It reminded me of all the hard work I’ve done to get this far and how I’ve achieved things I didn’t think were possible for me. I should be excited and proud, not worried and anxious. I deserve this and I must have the talent if I managed to get this far. These women had to endure far worse and fought for everything that I’ve taken for granted. I complained during uni about how much work there was to do, while they had to go to court to just be allowed to take a course at an all-white school. And they had to take night classes on top of looking after their family and working full-time! I’m in no position to be complaining. It really put everything in perspective for me and made me grateful for everything I have. This isn’t the only reason I feel it’s personal though. The fact that they are women of colour working in a field that is dominated by males is something I can directly relate to. Working in maths and finance-related fields, it’s harder for women to be acknowledged at the same level as men. Maths and science-related occupations are thought of as a male industry and therefore it spawns this belief that females would not be interested/competent in it and perpetuates the lack of women participation in this field. I’m glad this perception has gradually changed over time and more women are taking engineering, statistics, astrophysics etc. courses and taking up the related jobs. Pay and promotion are different issues, and still has a long way to go, but hopefully over the course of my generation, we’ll see some significant positive change. This film gave me hope that things can change for the better if there are those who are willing to stand up.

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Beyond the message it sends, I found it to be highly entertaining, humorous and dramatic at all the right moments. Yes, it was quite cliche at certain points, but I loved every cliche scene in this movie because they all hit their mark expertly. Whether it’s the dramatic outburst after Katherine came back from the coloured toilet on the other side of the complex, or if it’s the celebration and reconciliation between Katherine and Paul Stafford after the rocket successfully landed into the ocean, it’s all really satisfying and can be forgiven. This is probably the happiest of all the Best Picture-nominees anyways, so if you don’t want to be sobbing your eyes out at the end, watch this one.

What really elevates this film is of course the acting. The three lead actors, along with the rest of the ensemble cast, are simply superb. I thought Taraji P. Henson really stood out and I’m surprised she didn’t garner a Best Actress nomination, although there were probably just too many good performances this year. She really brought authenticity and passion to her role, and I found the whole performance very warm and sincere. Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer did brilliantly in supporting roles, and I’m glad that Octavia got recognised for her performance at the Oscars. I thought Janelle looked familar and realised she was also in Moonlight. The same goes for Mahershala Ali. It’s great to see both of them in two such incredible movies. An overall stellar cast, although I couldn’t quite see Jim Parsons as any other character outside of The Big Bang Theory haha.

Overall, it’s a wonderfully delightful, entertaining and uplifting film that shares an important untold story. It’s a shame it didn’t pick up any awards from it’s 3 Oscar nominations, but that should not put you off from watching it. You’ll come out feeling more energised and grateful for everything.

Other ratings:
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Metacritic: 74%
IMDb: 7.9/10.0
Cinemascore: A+

Discussion questions:

1. Did you know this story before watching the film?
2. Do you feel personally impacted by this film/were there any relevant issues that you thought the film brought up?
3. Do you feel uplifted and inspired after watching it?

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