Gemma: Hidden Figures!
Rasha: Hidden Figures! This was the right movie to watch at the right time for me. For all of us maybe?
G: Yeah, that’s about where I landed. At other times I would have gotten frustrated with the sentimentality, but honestly, we need it. These particular sentiments are sentiments I am currently welcoming into the world.
R: Yeah, it felt Disney-adjacent in the lightness of tone and careful avoidance of directly depicting violence or strong language, but I don’t feel like it pulled any of the emotional punches. I think the lightness of the surface succeeds because the story is so grounded in the viewpoint of the three women at the center–we are given every scene through their reactions and actions rather than from the reactions of anyone else. From that broke-down car scene at the beginning through to the launch at the end.
G: Yes, I’d agree with that, and in the main we had actors who could hold us in those perspectives. I think Janelle Monáe wasn’t quite up to the standard of the other two, but given the depth of their experience that’s no surprise; she could be someday. Can we talk about Taraji P. Henson’s RANGE for just a second? Because seriously.
R: I’ll be honest that I still see Cookie, even when she’s wearing glasses. But I don’t mind! And Monáe I will stan for.
G: See, I couldn’t see Cookie at all, and it delighted me to no end, as did the way the little girl’s facial expressions matched hers entirely. (The little girl from the beginning, not her daughters. Younger Katherine.)
R: Janelle Monáe has this cool demeanor, cool like a mountain is cool. I don’t know that she was playing a character that was too far from who she is, but that actually felt satisfying to see. Again, I am a hardcore stan.
G: I accept that. I had more to say in her favor in Moonlight. She just feels a bit like an amateur beside Spencer and Henson, but most anybody does.
R: Monáe feels more reserved in her acting choices. In the same way that Archie Panjabi is never going to be the same kind of performer as, say, (insert more emotionally motile actress here). You know who I really liked together in this movie? Henson and Mahershala Ali had amazing chemistry, just smooth and satisfying without stealing too much juice from the main storyline of Katherine’s success at work. I had forgotten until he showed up that he was going to be in the movie! Sigh, that’s my cousin right there. Imma go see his movies like he’s family.
G: Yeah, they were sweet in their little moments. (I really can’t do the comparison of Monáe’s work with Panjabi’s, but I understand that I pushed you. I didn’t dislike her.) Ali always makes good choices of stuff to be in now. And he made a good SAG awards speech, from what I hear.
R: You need to hear it yourself.
It may not change your world, but to see him stand as a conduit for the strong energies moving through him in that moment –I’m going to go see anything he’s in.
G: I will follow.
R: He was loving and firm and not shook.
G: I also want to give craftsmanship respect to Melfi even with the sentimentality–making a compelling movie about math is very hard. And yes, of course it was not Really about math, but even to make math plot points.
R: It was fantastically satisfying. I mean, they had to dramatize math and fossil-era computer programming! I walked out of the movie thinking: These women (and many other women in many other fields) did some of the hardest sh*t in the history of humans total–like objectively hard SPACE MATH sh*t–and they did it at a time when everything else was hard, just families, cities, society, the world was objectively and GLOBALLY hard. That is some good fuel in the tank right now. I keep them like a diamond in my mind. I need to read the book, I think, to get under the glossiness.
G: Ooh, I would read the book! I forgot there was a book.
Oh, I forgot to mention how much I appreciated Henson as a slapstick actress of the grand old style. Her runs through those parking lots. The lightness made the confrontations register in the heartmuscle.
G: Yeah, that was pretty marvelous. I still don’t get how you still saw Cookie in Henson! She played someone so internal! (Btw, “Say You’ll Go” just started playing on shuffle. Monáe will have her moment.)
My father was saying yesterday that Dorothy was really the anchor, the Point, even as Katherine was unquestionably the protagonist. I’m buying it more the more I think about it.
R: Yes, that is correct. Dorothy is holding the vision. She’s the boss.
G: And the simplicity with which she took her boss-dom and brought the community with her felt real to me.
R: How much does my geekgrrl heart LOVE to see her reprogram that ancient dinosaur computer.
All the much. Yes, she is a general, deploying powerfully skilled women and training her forces. It is again, Good Fuel.
G: Yes, ’tis. My grandfather was actually connected to the engineering of that ancient dinosaur computer, I think.
R: Was he the dude who hooked it up wrong or the dude who yelled at that dude? I am joking of course, but this may bring me to a bit that rang a little too light to be true in the film: Was it just me, or was John Glenn playing the impossibly magical white boy unicorn in this script? The guy they cast looked like a bad mimeograph copy of Chris Evans’ Captain America.
G: Oh, gracious, yes. He annoyed me.
R: There is no way I believe that John Glenn was actually like that. John Glenn, were you like that? Was Costner’s character like that?
G: Next question for the Ouija board.
R: Maybe he can punch some nazis in the sequel. That’s what has me excited about Captain America look-a-likes these days.