12 January 2017 | A_Different_Drummer
Major Feel-Good Movie, just gets better as it goes along
In the opinion of this reviewer, an extraordinary achievement.
The characters on which the film is based were special and unique on their own, and well deserving of the sort of semi-documentary films that Hollywood likes to serve up.
However, to take that story and bump it up to a major "feel-good film" that engages the viewer from the getgo and does not let up until the very end of its 2 hour and 5 minute running time, THAT is what elevates this project to greatness.
I want to be clear on this because it is important. There are two ways to do a feel-good film. One is (ironically!) by the numbers, using proved plot arcs and other script devices to make it work. An example of this for example is the latest Disney release MOANA which has taken some heat from critics for being derivative and not original. But that, you see, is the tried and true method to achieve the effect that the producers wanted. And it works.
The other way to make a film engaging and fun is to use your instincts and your actors to get the most from each scene. No rule book, no fixed way of doing a scene, just doing what works. This is, I believe the way that writer/director Theodore Melfi set out to do Hidden Figures, and boy did he pull it off! The acting is stellar. Costner has matured in his latest film roles and his work here is as far from the nonsense he used to do (like the dreaded Robin Hood) as the earth is from the sun.
Taraji P. Henson finally lands a great role, the kind of role she was looking for when she left the hit series Person of Interest a tad early.
And every good film or TV series needs a character who is "the glue" or a reference point that the viewer can use, like a compass needle, to see where we are in the main story. Here Octavia Spencer gives the performance of her life as that "glue" and helps the director to pace the film.