Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2017)

What's it about? The true story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Viola Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), three remarkable African-American women who made key contributions to NASA's efforts to put men into space, despite the racial obstacles they faced in 1960s America.


Is it any good? At the time of writing, Hidden Figures is the most successful of the Best Picture nominees at the US box-office, a remarkable feat for a film with no big stars involved. It's secret is simple; tell a good story. And it is a good story, a crowd-pleasing, feel-good account of how three women with a can-do attitude overcame prejudice and bucked convention to make their mark in history. Admittedly, there's nothing particularly subtle about the direction or writing, which can't avoid drifting towards cliche and features a few too many 'comedy' sequences of Henson running to the toilet, even if that builds to a serious point. However, the performances save the day, as Henson, Monáe and Spencer each take their chance to shine as they chart the challenges faced and successes achieved by these three pioneering, inspiring women. The rest of the film orbits around those three stellar performances and even if it's a perfunctory underdog story in its construction, they propel it to greater heights. Add in a little patriotism, some topical racial commentary and Kevin Costner barking orders and it's easy to see the appeal. You do the maths.

Anything else I should know? A little background reading reveals it sticks closely to the real facts, but those wanting the full story could pick up Margot Lee Shetterly's non-fiction best-seller upon which the film is based. Or you could read the Brodie's Notes version here. Come on, these women put a bloody man in space - the least you can do is read a bit about it!

What does the Fonz think? Mission accomplished.

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