The Help

Film Review: Hidden Figures

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4 of 5 stars to Hidden Figures, a drama released in 2017 about three African-American women who fought for the ability to work in a NASA program during the 1960s on the team calculating important formulas and equations being used to help the US launch an astronaut into space. Originally a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, you can read more about it here.

Why This Movie?

The story is fascinating… not only are three women, but three African-American women, fighting for a fair chance to participate when (1) it should have always been an option [don’t get me started on my frustration with all people not having equal rights in the past] and (2) they were the smartest people in the country at the time.

It received several Oscar nominations, but unfortunately didn’t win any of the major ones. It won a few other award shows for acting, etc. And it’s based on reality… where all 3 women are real people, some still alive today.

I usually prefer to read the book before I watch the movie, but I’ve got a backlog of books on my TBR (To Be Read) shelf with some deadlines, and my other half wanted to see the movie. We don’t often go to the movies and it was released last week onto our cable providers “movies on demand.” It became last Saturday evening’s movie of choice.

It is often compared to “The Help,” particularly because of it being the same rough time period, having Octavia Spencer and it being about African-American women fighting for equal rights. But it’s really quite different. You don’t see a lot of victimization in this movie; it’s certainly there, but the overall theme and message is more about how smart they were and what successes they had.

Overview

Katherine, Dorothy and Mary live in Virginia and work at the NASA offices in the computer room, but they don’t work on computers: they are human computers who have vast mathematical skills beyond any reasonable norm. Katherine has a particular genius for being able to calculate extensive formulas using advanced geometry and other sorts of equations. Dorothy, hoping to get the supervisor role she’s acting in but without the title and pay, is very easily able to understand computer languages and engineering, and when the first IBM comes to town, she is the one who makes it work properly. Mary’s specific skills are never volunteered, but she wanted to be an engineer and needed to get advanced degrees at a local university when it was an all-white school. Each of the women struggle in their personal lives (widow, less than supportive family and single mother) as well as at work, but they band together to help fight for the right to be part of the team to help launch John Glenn into space, especially after the Russians beat the US. The movie follows about a 6-month arc of their lives when they are first told “no” all the way to when they get their “yes.”

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE
    • It was a toss up… I love Octavia Spencer, but I think Taraji P. Henson beat her out in this one.
    • Taraji is probably best known currently for her role of Cookie on “Empire.”
    • Taraji plays Katherine, a single mother of three, who lives with her own mother, so someone is raising the girls. She is the smartest in the group and eventually gets a chance to prove it when she gets put on the team to launch John Glenn.
    • Taraji’s performance was very simple and understated for 90% of the film; she was very consistent and conveyed through body language every hurt and frustration over the lack of equal and civil rights, in particular around her scenes when needing to find a “colored bathroom.” When she’s finally pushed to the edge, she unleashes in a verbal storm for about two minutes and really showcases how awful it was for women and for African-Americans during this time period.

  • OTHERS
    • Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy, and has her normal comedic timing down to perfection. Her role is probably a bit more supporting, but she is very strong.
    • Janelle Monae plays Mary, who fights for her right, and all future African Americans and women, to attend an all-white university. She is best known as the singer of “We are young,” a song I think is absolutely beautiful.
    • Kirsten Dunst plays Vivian, a supervisor who stands the line on what the company will allow its “colored” employees to do or not do. She plays her typical character, but did it well.
    • Kevin Costner plays Al, head of the division working on the space launch. He’s very strong in this role. Um… I think everyone knows who Costner is, but he plays a similar role as he always does!
    • Jim Parsons plays Paul, Al’s right hand who struggles with partnering on or stealing Katherine’s work. He’s very different than his role on The Big Bang Theory.
    • Glen Powell plays John Glenn. Glen’s best known for his role on Scream Queens. But he is very different this time – not silly humor as in the past. I liked him a lot.
    • Lots of other strong supporting cast members… in all, a good group.

The Good or The Bad

  • It’s a great film. The story is strong. The acting is good. The setting and scenery is fantastic, especially given they were recreating something almost 60 years old.
  • It got a 4 instead of a 5 only because there weren’t any major stand-out components, where I thought “OMG, new star is born, this is amazing, everyone must see it…” It was a solid movie, depicting a very sad part of American history with great aplomb. A few more dramatic scenes may have pushed it up to a 5 for me. But still very much worth watching.
  • Never any slow scenes where it felt over-played.
  • Although the mathematical formulas were critical, they were downplayed. You could see the characters calculating, but you didn’t worry about it being too advanced. It was minimal screen time. The film was more about what was going on in people’s heads over everything.

What’s Next?

  • I don’t know if I’ll go back to read the book. As much as I loved the film, I get the gist. I’d rather read something else by this author.
  • I would be interested in seeing something else with Taraji P. Nelson in it. It was a very good performance and very different from her other roles from what I understand.
  • I might consider a biography about these women… if it exists. I need to look that up!
  • I don’t know a lot about the “underground railroad.” It might be time to get more educated on this even earlier historical fight for freedom.

About Me

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Each week, I will post a summary of a trip I’ve taken somewhere in the world. I’ll cover the transportation, hotel, restaurants, activities, who, what, when, where and why… and let you decide for yourself if it’s a trip worth taking.

Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” Since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life… see how you compare!

Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

 

Review: The Help

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The Help
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book at least 4 years ago, before I began to more consistently use Goodreads… and now I’m going back to ensure I have some level of a review for everything I read. It’s only fair… if the author took the time to write it, and I found a few hours to read it… I should share my views so others can decide if it’s a good book for them.

That said… did anyone not love or like this book? I’ll have to check out some other people’s reviews… And I wonder how many people just watched the movie… Oh well… I’ll keep this review short and not in my usual format, as probably everyone I’m friends with on here has already read it! 🙂

The only reason I’m not giving it a 5 is because I felt like some of the stories needed a better or stronger ending. I truly think it is a fantastic book, and it makes you really think about what happened in the not-so-distant past… and probably still happening in some parts of the country today. Scary thoughts, but in the end, at least the right people got something back they deserved, even if it wasn’t as much as it should have been.

The characters are very clear and strong. And when there are upwards of 10 to 12 supporting or lead female characters, an author has to spend a tremendous amount of time creating distinct pictures in a readers mind. Stockett did a great job with this task. Each and every one shows you a different personality: leaders and followers, movers and shakers, smart and silly, strong and weak, tolerant and intolerant, thirsty for all the world has to offer and content to stay the same for an entire lifetime.

When a writer can shuffle this many people throughout a story, they have invested themselves into the book, the characters, the setting, the theme, the future.

I haven’t read anything else by this author, but just thinking about this book, and realizing I haven’t looked at her other works makes me want to run to her profile now and pick one. Perhaps that’s what I’ll go do!



About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

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