Directed by Theodore Melfi and based off a true story, “Hidden Figures” tells the story of three African-American NASA engineers; Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Jenson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), who help coordinate John Glenn’s (Glen Powell) space orbit.
The cast is great and the direction is steady and sturdy. It is great to see Hollywood tackle not just the concept of strong women, but also the concept of smart women. The well-written script bursts with clever quips and strong characters.
The problem is that the film is primarily focused on message over story. The struggle of the women against a white chauvinist world prevents the film from being anything other than a simple morality tale: Racism bad, perseverance good. It’s not very deep and doesn’t really offer anything other than surface level viewing, not really sticking with the viewer nor offering new thought-provoking ideas about class, sexism or racism. And it’s another example of the “white savior” with Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison serving as the pulpit of white guilt.
So while “Hidden Figures” wears it’s heart on its sleeve, it really is just a retread of a very similar theme we’ve heard before. It doesn’t really offer anything other than a timeless anecdote.