Tuesday, 17 January 2017

REVIEW - HIDDEN FIGURES (THEODORE MELFI)


The desire to support a certain type of film, the urge to enjoy and exalt all cinema that seeks to achieve a noble political purpose or to tell a worthy tale heretofore untold is put to the test in Hidden Figures. It comprises the majority of what this film has to offer, and indeed is an urge thoroughly encouraged by its content - this particular tale being about the African-American women whose integral contributions to space exploration in the 1960s, in the face of extreme, direct prejudice, have been mostly overlooked in favour of the archetypal white male heroes. You want to love them and this story of their experiences, and indeed you do love them - they're smart, witty, personable characters given depth and detail by an earnest screenplay and some smart performances. These lovable attributes aside, however, the film around these marvellous ladies is an unfortunate dud in a number of fundamental ways. Corny dialogue recalls soapy studio dramas from the early '90s, routine plotting bends the truth around a transparently formulaic structure, and suspect attempts at watering down the film's racial themes betray the callous pandering whose impact is surely antithetical to its central message. Hidden Figures is a conservative film about groundbreaking people, whose service deserved better than decades of erasure from the pages of history, and must now be content with this. It's an upgrade, no doubt, and in some respects a noble one. But once again, these women take the strain, elevating the work of their white colleagues, turning it into whatever triumph they can.