February 26, 2017

Why Hidden Figures Shouldn't Win an Oscar...

...For Best Adapted Screenplay.

This winter some of the most pivotal movies about the black experience came to theaters: Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight. All of these movies grew to be culturally and historically important films. Out of these three in my opinion Hidden Figures was the weakest and most inaccurate. Frankly, it was a PR video for NASA. I dislike when oppressed people get a chance to tell their true stories but they turn into watered down events of what really happened. The movie was based on a non-fiction novel by Margot Lee Shetterly. Shetterly spent lots of time researching in order to write the story about the black women who had been pushed into the background. Here's where the translation gets watered down. The novel was then adapted for the screen by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder. Both are relatively new screenwriters and between the two of them they have written/co-written 4 major films. Now that's not to say that due to their lack of film writing credits they're bad writers, but Hidden Figures was lacking. I think if you read the book by Shetterly, you'd be more inclined to agree with me. Earlier I mentioned that the movie seemed like a PR spin for NASA and most likely it was. Schroeder interned for the company and her grandparents also worked for NASA. Why would someone with such close ties to them want to be completely forthcoming about what was happening behind closed doors? I believe it would've been more realistic to have someone with fresh, unbiased eyes co-write the screenplay. I think they were too focused on making it a cozy movie rather than a realistic movie, which is a slap in the face to the people who endured it. I have to mention one of the most glaring inaccuracies of the movie came from the climax. (spoiler alert) Costner's character learns that Taraji P. Henson's character has to run a mile across the NASA campus just to use the 'colored restroom'. His reaction to this is to physically break the barrier between whites and blacks by tearing down the "whites only" sign. Maybe this really did happen for a day. But what about the next day? In Virginia it was illegal to have whites and blacks use the same restrooms. Do you think no one complained about someone going against the law? It just happened and everyone accepted it? Their biases about black people just went away as soon as that sign came down and they were all content. Hmm...

I have a bone to pick with you Pharrell and Hans Zimmer. Both of you are music veterans, yet the score for this movie was deplorable. The move was set in the 1960s, yet the music was fit for 2016. During the first scene, I leaned over to my friend and said, "Are you hearing this?" And I really hoped that it was just an opening scene attention grabber but nope! I think this took away from the movie and downplayed the tone of the time period. All in the movie was too docile, things just seemed to happened and everything that happened was resolved. No more discrimination, segregation, racism, sexism, it was all resolved because they put a man into space. 

I do think the acting was nice, but the writing and the score ruined it for me. The actors should not be penalized for those flaws. I think all of the actors did a splendid job but I don't see how Octavia Spencer was nominated for her performance. I want to see her do something else besides play the "mama" figure. In comparison to her performance in The Help, this performance was very lackluster. I thought Janelle Monae was an absolute standout and should've been nominated instead. I was glad to see Taraji P. Henson in a different role, she did an amazing job! I was also glad to see Mahershala Ali as her love interest. Kevin Costner was a great fit for his role, as was Jim Parsons. Kirsten Dunst surprised me because she looked so...much older and so bitter, which was fitting for her part.

I know the movie was an inspiration to many women, young and old. However, I cannot look over the fact that this was watered down to make us/the audience feel cozy. I just wanted better writing, deeper writing. It's not that I wanted everyone to feel disturbed or sad, I wanted the real experiences, I wanted to feel something more. I felt like there was an erasure of emotion, too. The only time the main women became emotional was when it dealt with something going wrong at NASA. Yes, we are strong, resilient but still human. Maybe I'm nitpicking....*shrugs* What did you guys think about the movie, specifically the writing?