Taraji P. Henson as a quiet, reserved mathematician.
Take a moment to ponder this thought because I’ve been pondering it ever since I found out about this film. The idea of the outgoing, outspoken, and confidant Taraji P. Henson playing this type of character made me raise my eyebrow. Those who have seen Henson as the abrasive and acid-tongued Cookie Lyon on Empire, or the steely and professional Detective Joss Carter on Person of Interest will understand where I’m coming from. Henson didn’t seem like the right fit for this role.
I think it’s important to highlight these feelings because of just how wrong they are. Henson defies expectations in Hidden Figures, the true story of three black women who broke race and gender boundaries by making significant contributions to the United States space program during the 60s. She carries the emotional weight of the film, delivering a powerful, inspiring, and often hilarious performance as mathematician Katherine Johnson. Henson is followed closely behind by co-stars Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, who steal scenes as energetic foils to Johnson’s more quiet nature.
It helps the actresses have a capable script to work from. Writers Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder have delivered a script simultaneous engaging and funny and empowering and though-provoking, with quick pacing which never makes the two-hour film feel like a drag.
While Hidden Figures is a look back at the prejudice pervasive during the time the film is set, undoubtedly a serious topic, this is ultimately a feel-good movie. Watching our three leads follow their ambitions and stick to their convictions regardless of who or what is standing in their way, makes you want to cheer them on every step of the way. Just make sure to keep the noise outside the cinema.