Movie review: Hidden Figures

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a movie that would have been on my Top 10 films of 2016 if I have seen it before the end of the year (when will the studios realize the benefits of the global day-in-day releases?). This is Hidden Figures!

IMDb summary: Based on a true story. A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions.

Similarly to Loving and Fences, Hidden Figures is a different kind of movie that spotlights the African-American talent. It’s set during the civil rights movements but doesn’t directly relate to it, even if some of the movement’s ideas are addressed in the film in a really powerful way. This movie also stands out as one of the major female-driven films of the awards season. It has been praised by critics but most importantly it managed to debut at the top of the box office list in the US, meaning that a lot of mainstream moviegoers saw it!

Writing

Hidden Figures was written by Allison Schroeder and the director of the picture Theodore Melfi, based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. I absolutely adored the film’s story. I knew about Katherine Goble Johnson before seeing the film (thank you, SciShow on Youtube) but I loved getting to know more about her as well as other African-American women working at NASA. I immensely enjoyed seeing all the different parts of NASA (the 3 of them worked in different departments – calculations, engineering, and computing) and the space race through their distinct perspective. It was actually really interesting to finally see a Cold War movie that didn’t focus on the local conflicts in Vietnam, Korea or Berlin, but a one which looked at the more passive but no less interesting space race.

In addition, I liked that not only the professional but also the private lives of the 3 main characters were presented. This made them all into more well-rounded and realistic characters. Hidden Figures’ writing also focused a lot on the importance of education, portraying it as a key to a better life. I have always been a strong believer of this statement, so the film automatically appealed to me. It was also quite cool that the picture underlined the importance of mathematics, as it is usually the most hated subjects in school (I actually quite liked it). The film’s story, even though set in 1960s, was also contemporary and very topical, if you think about its possible relation to the Women in STEM program.

Lastly, Hidden Figures tackled all kinds of discrimination, mainly sexism and racism but also general discrimination in the work place. Even though half a century has passed, all of these types of bullying are still happening today and should be stopped. Hidden Figures contributes to this conversation by a lot. And even though the film deals with serious topics, it still ends on a positive note and has a very satisfying ending. Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary are not just heroes to all girls or African-Americans. They should be idols to all underdogs and, let’s be frank, we are all underdogs in one field or another.

Directing

Hidden Figures was directed by Theodore Melfi and he did a superb job with his 2nd feature (St.Vincent was his directorial debut). The movie was balanced and well-paced, both entertaining and intellectually engaging. It was compelling, suspenseful, and intense and these feelings were only strengthened by the fact that it told a real and not a fictional story. The picture had a few very powerful scenes, like Taraji P.Henson’s character’s speech about the bathroom discrimination as well as Janelle Monáe’s courtroom speech. The film also has a few more personal and touching moments to counteract the powerful and serious scenes, like Mahershala Ali’s character’s proposal to Taraji P. Henson character.

Hidden Figures also had a magnificent soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams (he also produced the film), and Benjamin Wallfisch. It was upbeat and fun and really helped to lighten up the serious mood of the picture. When watching the film, I didn’t know who composed the movie’s music, but now, seeing who was involved, I’m not at all surprised that I liked the soundtrack. I mean, Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams!? Such a great combo of class and pop!

Acting

The three leading ladies of the film were played by Taraji P.Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer (The Help, Snowpiercer, Zootopia, Divergent) and the newcomer Janelle Monáe. I absolutely loved the individual performances of all the actresses as well as their chemistry in the group scenes. In my mind, the cast is the film’s strongest element so it is not surprising that the movie received a lot of SAG nominations. Octavia Spencer has been getting the majority of the recognition but I would have preferred if they would have spotlighted Taraji P. Henson in the lead actress category instead. Spencer already had her big win with The Help andmore importantly, I thought that Henson’s performance was stronger. If the voters wanted to only reward the film’s in the supporting actress category (like they are doing now),  Janelle Monáe should have received a nomination instead of Octavia Spencer. Monáe is a true breakout star of 2016, as she was also in Moonlight. Don’t get me wrong, Spencer was great too but it would have just been nice to reward the other two actresses as well or instead.

The picture also has a splendid array of secondary characters who were brought to life by great actors. Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons played a familiar role (he can’t seem to escape the nerdy scientist part) and did a great job. His character was the one that bullied Katherine the most, but I think that he would have been jealous of anyone. Sadly, Katherine’s gender and skin color made her an easy target. Kirsten Dunst (Midnight Special) also played a part in the film and had an amazing line that just summed up the movie perfectly. I, of course, mean her statement about how the USA are fast to space but slow when it comes to the progress on the ground. Mahershala Ali, who was in Moonlight too, also had a small role and did a nice job. The mainstream audiences know him best from Luke Cage, so his career, both the mainstream and the indie parts of it, are on the rise. Lastly, even Kevin Costner (Draft Day, McFarland, USAdelivered his best and the most interesting performance in years.

In short, Hidden Figures was an excellent film that told an important and fascinating story but did that in an entertaining way. The movie was really well-made behind the scenes and it also had the best on-screen ensemble I’ve seen in a couple of years.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Hidden Figures trailer

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Movie review: Paper Towns

Movie reviews

Hello!

This is a very special blog post, because I’m going to review my favorite book’s movie adaptation. So, let’s travel to the Paper Towns and leT’s gEt loSt AnD fOuNd.

Pre-watching ideas

John Green is my favorite author. I have read all of his books multiple times and, although The Fault In Our Stars is his most famous book and was adapted to the big screen last year (TFIOS review, nail design), my favorite book of his is actually Paper Towns. My Tumblr is even named after that book (link). I am also a huge YouTube fan (my top YouTuber lists here and here), so I closely follow John and his brother Hank Green on all social media (vlogbrothers on YouTube). Their educational channels, gaming channels, Vidcon organization, and, most importantly, charity work to decrease the world suck (Project for Awesome) are all equally amazing. I haven’t found people, who inspire me to do good things for others that much. I’m also really excited that John Green made a deal with one of the biggest Hollywood production companies (Fox 2000) – I can’t wait to see what he will bring to the table, how much heart and soul he will breathe into the Hollywood cash-grabs.

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I’ve eagerly followed the making of the film since it went into pre-production. I’ve highly enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes stuff in vlogbrothers weekly videos as well as on the Internet in general. I was really happy with the casting choices, because I believe that Nat Wolff did a great job in TFIOS and I am really excited to see how Cara Delevingne transitions from modeling to acting. I am a huge fan of hers (I’ll literally buy every magazine if she is on the cover) and I can’t wait for her acting career to blow up.

When Hollywood tries to adapt a book into a motion picture, the fans get really worried about the changes that the producers and the director will have to make. However, since the author of the original material –John Green – is also an executive producer on the film, I have complete faith in him: he won’t allow the core ideas and the overall feeling of the story to be altered.

IMDb summary: A young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door.

Post-watching ideas

Directing 

The film was directed by Jake Schreier. This was only his second time directing a full-length feature, however, his past projects have quite high IMDb ratings. To my mind, Paper Towns will be one of the biggest highlights of his career. The filmed looked amazing. I enjoyed the long continual shots in the abandoned building as well as moments which were shot from the above (like Radar and Angela on a blanket; goods in the supermarket).

Writing

The screenplay was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber who also wrote TFIOS screenplay. Moreover, they have written a screenplay based on Looking for Alaska – a debut novel by John Green. That book will probably be next of John’s creations to be adapted to the big screen and I believe that they will use the screenplay by Neustadter and Weber because they did an even more amazing job with Paper Towns than with TFIOS. The dialogue was funny and not full of cliches, all the characters were well developed and had moments to shine and the overall message of the film was conveyed very subtly but clearly.

Connection to my personal life

The reason, why I feel connected to this story, is because I relate to all of the characters. I have always been Q – the calm and collected one with a clear life goal and a plan. But I got tired of being predictable and I have always wanted to step out of my comfort zone. Basically, I wanted to be Margo. So, I really hope that my decision to move halfway across the continent after I turn 18 will be a Margo-esc thing to do. You have to get lost, to find yourself, right?

The quote from the book ‘The Town Was Paper But The Memories Were Not’ is also very near and dear to my heart. The people that I have encountered in my life so far have mostly been very ordinary. All of them are happy with their day-to-day life and there is nothing wrong with that. I just want more and I don’t really know what more is yet, but I’m prepared to find out. However, the part of the quote “but the memories were not” to me means that there were a few extraordinary moments in my simple life that were and still are invaluable. I’m ready to leave my paper life but I will always keep the memories.

While watching the film, I’ve also realized that I’m Radar in my group of friends. I am usually the rational one who plans everything, is worried about school, and is scared of breaking the rules. I also have a friend who is as thirsty and funny as Ben. Lastly, my best friend is the Q of our group – she would definitely travel 2000 km for the love of her life.

Acting

  • Nat Wolff as Quentin “Q” did an amazing job. He was so likable and adorable. Furthermore, I highly enjoyed the fact that this film swapped the gender roles and a guy, played by Wolff, was the one chasing after a girl and not the other way around. Nat played a hopeless romantic who learned his lesson perfectly and I really hope that his career will get a boost after this film.
  • Austin Abrams as Ben was a complete scene-stealer like Michael Pena in Ant-man (review of that film). His comedic timing was amazing and his jokes weren’t cliche at all. Even the pee joke worked well and pee jokes never impress me.
  • Justice Smith as Marcus “Radar” was a really cool character too that, as I have mentioned before, represented me completely. And those Black Santas looked amazing – I was really worried that they would cut that part of the film because it’s too weird but I’m so happy that they didn’t. Now I definitely need a Black Santa statue. Is there an official merchandise site that I could get one on? Maybe the DFTBA store will have some.

Also, I really loved how nerdy all the 3 guys were . The Pokemon song and the Valar Morghulis shout-out with a beer sword were amazing.

  • Cara Delevingne as Margo Roth Spiegelman was wonderful and the best casting choice in ..like.. ever. True, she wasn’t in a film much but she was extremely charming in a few scenes she had. This was probably the most successful transition from modeling to acting, I have ever seen. But then again, I’ve always felt that Cara was more than a model. She is a superstar in her own right. However, I might be making the same mistake as Q did, imagining her in a way I think she should be. I guess we will never know if I’m right or mistaken unless I meet her one day, which is unlikely.
  • Halston Sage as Lacey was also a nice addition to the cast. I really liked the idea that her character presented – a pretty girl can be smart too. The outside doesn’t always reflect what is on the inside.
  • Jaz Sinclair as Angela was also an original and well-developed character. I really liked the fact that she is a fan of Ed Sheeran. (I am also a fan – proof). Moreover, I liked how they included her in the final act of the film because she wasn’t a part of the road trip in the book.

Margo’s little sister played by Meg Crosbie was also really great in a few scenes she had. She definitely knew how to profit from her sister’s disappearance.

Spoilers!!

  • Ansel Elgort had a short cameo in the film as a cashier. I hope that his cameo will start a trend and we will get to see an actor from this adaptation in the next film based on a novel by Green. Maybe Cara Delevingne will be one of the students in the boarding school in Looking for Alaska?

Story ideas

The book and the movie both succeed in portraying the following ideas:

  1. Never fall in love with an imaginary person (reminds me of The Great Gatsby, don’t you think?)
  2. Enjoy the little things in life and be smart enough to spot them.
  3. Never judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance.
  4. Don’t be afraid to jump higher and to run faster – leave your comfort zone.
  5. Try to reach your goal no matter what and if you have no goal or no plan – don’t be scared to look for them.

The premise of the film and the whole concept of the Paper Town is also very interesting and extremely clever. Huge props to John Green, who found such a different idea to base his book on.

Soundtrack

All of the young adult films have amazing soundtracks and this one is no exception. My favorite song is the one from the trailer – To the Top by Twin Shadow (listen on YouTube). Falling by HAIM was also really nice (listen here). Lastly, the song which I don’t think was in the actual film but was featured in the trailer – Smile by Mikky Ekko – is also one of my favorite songs of all time (find it on YouTube).

All in all, even if you are a not a target demographic of this film or if you have never heard anything about John Green and his previous work (if you have never heard about TFIOS, have you been living under a rock?), you still should see this film. It’s a refreshing and realistic love story, which has a deeper meaning and isn’t just another teen flick. It didn’t earn as much money during its opening weekend as TFIOS did, but I believe that it will be a sleeper-hit.

Rate: 5/5 (how else could I rate it?)

Trailer: Paper Towns trailer

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