Uplifting, heroic, and historically fascinating.
Hidden Figures, starring Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, and directed by Theodore Melfi. The film, based on true life events, tells the story of three African American women working at NASA in the midst of space race along with the civil rights movement. The main character played by Henson, Katherine Johnson, is a mathematical genius who struggles to prove herself to all of the male white mathematicians. Her job was working on the trajectories and re-entries for the NASA rockets and ships. The other women are also trail blazers at NASA. Spencer’s character Dorothy Vaughn was the first African American supervisor at NASA, and Monae’s, Mary Jackson was the first African American Engineer. These types of stories should be told. It’s fantastic that a light was shone on how these women helped propel our country towards space and desegregation.
I’m a sucker for stories about NASA and the space race, and after seeing the first trailer for the film I knew it would be a movie to watch. Hidden Figures is very much an uplifting heartfelt story about how these women overcame challenges and persevered. The filmmakers play up some of what Katherine Johnson went through for dramatic effect according to an interview she gave, but even if they did it’s not a stretch to think other women in the country experienced similar or worse things. What they didn’t play up is the job she and the other women did. Katherine Johnson mapped John Glenn’s trajectory and he truly didn’t want to fly until Johnson rechecked the IBM computer’s numbers. Mary Jackson had to petition to attend an all-white school to become an engineer. This is done extremely well in the film, and showcases some great moments. Octavia Spencer is fantastic in everything she does and it’s no different in her role as playing Dorothy Vaughn. She has some truly steal showing scenes with the struggle her character went through for the film and what she accomplished to become the first African American supervisor at NASA.
The overall uplifting tone of the film doesn’t shy away from the issue of segregation at the time. It is really crazy to think just over fifty years ago what many in south had to go through because of Jim Crow laws. The film provides a stark juxtaposition for them to be working on uplifting the county with their work at NASA and then to leave the facility and be treated as second class citizens. I enjoyed Melfi’s approach to the film and the tone he set for the movie. He focused more on these women and what they accomplished. He could have focused more on the struggles for them and those around them during the time for a very different tone. This wouldn’t have been wrong, but I think the tone he set for the film is one which fits this story. People can walk out of the theater thinking they can accomplish anything if they set their mind to it, and this is always a good feeling when leaving a film.
The only slight negative I have for the film is the adding in the home relationships of the women. They should be included and shown, but for the film they seemed shoehorned in and they upset the pace of the movie. Showing Katherine Johnson being courted and getting married to her second husband is a story the film didn’t need. Ali is great as the future husband, but I think they should have already had them married for the overall pace of the movie. Showing the women with their family was a great way to highlight how the characters had to fight a two front battle by being both African American and women. This should be shown. I just wish it didn’t feel so forced into the movie, and I think cutting out some of the dating scenes with Johnson would have helped this aspect.
Hidden Figures overall is a good solid film, and it’s something I could watch again. This film is one which is very much Worth Seeing. If you have any interest in history or the Space Race it will be enjoyable, but even without this the story is still engaging enough to be enjoyable for all. Go out and see this one, so more films like this can be made. These are the type of historical stories which should be told and discovered. There are more out there, they just need to be found.
Let me know what you think of Hidden Figures if you have seen it, if not are you planning on seeing it in the theaters. Comment and let me know.