2016 – USA
Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
Words: Christian Abbott
This is another necessary tale untold by Hollywood which is now getting its due. And that is very much the case; this is a story of inherent merit from its important narrative to more than capable filmmaking. Based on the non-fiction novel of the same name, this is the story of the African American women who’s invaluable, and crucial work, ensured America the top spot in the space race and humanity a transcendent milestone.
The three leads, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe respectively all bring the accumulative talent of impressive careers. Together, they have all the chemistry and acting power needed to guide us through a story with a smile on our faces, despite the terrible situations of prejudice and racism they find themselves in. That is of course the main driving obstacle of the film – the times.
We are brought back to 1963, a time when women such as these could only dream of a workplace without discrimination. With that said, there isn’t a sweeping backhand to all the white men and women they work with. Kevin Costner plays the project chief Al, who is as subtle in performance as he is in compassion. A defining moment of the film is when he smashes the sign from the door of the segregated bathroom. Alongside him is Kirsten Dunst’s Vivian, the easy to hate co-worker, though even she is awarded a depth characters such as this rarely afford. The biggest surprise was Jim Parsons’ Paul, the quasi-antagonist of the film. Stepping out of his one-note and irritating role of Sheldon in Big Bang Theory, it’s more than pleasing to be allowed to hate his character.
Tying it all together is the, now promising, work of director Theodore Melfi. Being only his second theatrical release it’s an impressive piece of work. There is however a level of schmaltz and generalisation of issues that holds the film back from being considered great, but it is an endearing if sometimes earnest effort. It flows at a steady rhythm; the pace never falters making it a blend of entertainment and important awareness to the people who had to suffer against injustice.
This is a film that should be used to educate, so that we may keep standing up to such basic failures in humanity.