Saturday, 18 February 2017

Hidden Figures (PG)

Just the other day, over on the podcast, we were musing about the dearth of original ideas coming out of the Hollywood ideas factory these days.

Which, combined with it being awards season, goes some way to explaining why there are so many true stories currently being told on the big screen.

Not saying that's a bad thing, mind, just observing.

It's an observation born out of an interesting cinematic doubleheader - Hidden Figures and The Founder.

They're an interesting contrast in tales. One an inspiring story of what can be done against the odds, the other a story of what can be done if you don't care who you shit on...

They're also both fascinating, from an entirely selfish viewpoint, as they are stories I was not aware of.

In the case of Hidden Figures, it's the story of the black women who helped Kennedy's America get a man into space as they raced the Russians to prove who is best.

The story is both heartwarming and uplifting - in part because, while looking at the racism and segregation of the day, there is no grandstanding.

The viewer is left to feel shame that such times even existed - and also to dwell on how some would like such times to return.

But the inherent racism of the period serves as more than a historical marker, it also puts the achievements of the three main characters into sharper focus.

Not only were all three black, but they were women. That's two strikes against them.

Yet, with poise, grace and quiet determination, all three - Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson - push back the boundaries of both their world and ours.

And it's the strength of these three woman - played perfectly by Taraji P Henson, Oscar-nominated Octavia Spencer and Janelle MonĂ¡e - that make Hidden Figures the wonderful film it is.

From the opening scene, you connect with all three, as they go on their journey you are alongside them, cheering their successes, sharing their tragedies.

Theodore Melfi, of St Vincent fame, has delivered once more, allowing the story to tell itself without hammering any points home.

In a way, this is almost an old-fashioned film.

Take great actors, give them a great script, let them get on with it.

Obviously it takes more than that, but when done well it really should look that easy.

From the get go, I was grinning. And the further along the journey we went, the more I was just filled with the warm and fuzzies.

Even the 'lesser' characters played by Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst and Glen Powell have an important role to play, and are all strong enough to invoke a reaction from the audience.

If there is a negative kicking around, it would be the end credits (can we stop with the real life bits at the end of films now please?) and the fact Parsons is pretty much just playing Sheldon from Big Bang.

But those are the nittiest of nits to be picked.

Hidden Figures looks as warm as it makes you feel and is further proof that there is no substitute for a good story well told.

An early front-runner for film of the year and no mistake.

(Just realised I still haven't managed to bring myself to write that Lion review. Can't see that changing anytime soon...)

No comments:

Post a Comment