Combustible Celluloid
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With: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali
Written by: Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi, based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and some language
Running Time: 127
Date: 12/25/2016

Hidden Figures (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Space and Race

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures is an awards-season, based-on-a-true story movie about three African-American women who worked at NASA during the space race of the 1960s, overcoming certain small racial obstacles in the process. All in all, the story is a good one, and the movie never feels too heavy or preachy.

Like many movies of its kind, it's directed by a white man, Theodore Melfi, whose previous film, St. Vincent, is enjoyable and has absolutely nothing to do with this one, style-wise. But unlike many other movies of this kind, this one is actually driven by Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson, and not a surrogate white character. The three women's characters are strong and, though it's unlikely that some of the movie's impassioned speeches and cinematic triumphs actually happened, the movie offers chances for good performances. Kevin Costner is likewise good in his role, as a white NASA supervisor that never even seems to see race as an issue.

It's basically a movie that holds the hands of white people, gently guiding them through the story, letting them know that blacks, in fact, can be good people too. Certain white characters overcome their racially-tinted views and we are encouraged to congratulate them. Nevertheless, until the election of this last November, I would have thought that America was too enlightened for a simple movie like this, but now I see we need all the help we can get.

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