Hidden Figures

Biography , Drama , History Feb 13, 2017 No Comments

©2016 20th Century FOX

©2016 20th Century FOX

Directed by Theodore Melfi | Biography, Drama, History | PG | 2h 7m

Our Rating: $11.20 (Regal raised their price again.)

Everyone knows the story: in a race with the Soviet Union, the United States wanted to get a man in space before they did. Standard textbook stuff. What you don’t learn about in school is the story behind HIDDEN FIGURES.

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) had to battle (and win) against two major prejudices typical of the time period: segregation and gender inequality. And when you think about this period in American history, it almost sounds like a tall tale, right? Although the movie focuses on all three women, the story primarily follows Katherine’s journey.

It starts with Katherine as a young girl, a math prodigy, and then abruptly jumps to 1961. The audience is introduced to these remarkable women on the side of the road, their broken down car attracting attention from a police officer who is immediately suspicious. After he learns they work for NASA, his attitude changes, demonstrating how the space race was far more important than his racist notions.

While the movie focuses on Katherine’s work as a computer and the discrimination she faces from the men she works with, the story also shows Dorothy and Mary’s trials. Dorothy, passed over for a position as supervisor, learns how to program the new IBM machine NASA received to help get a man into space. In turn, she teaches the women in her department how to program the machine so ensure their continued employment once NASA no longer needs “human computers”. Mary wants to work as an engineer. In order to attend engineering courses at a “whites only” high school and earn her degree, she first has to petition for her right to attend.

While the overall theme of the film is perseverance, the movie does falter in spots. Several scenes focus on Katherine’s personal life, taking you away from the main part of the movie. It’s interesting to learn about her life outside of NASA, but I would have liked more on her work than her personal life. At times, the movie felt like it wanted to put too much in there. Dorothy and Mary almost didn’t get enough attention and at certain times felt like after thoughts as it jumped back to them. (Honestly, they probably could have made three separate movies out of their lives.)

The acting in the movie was superb. Henson, Monae, and Spencer really give stand out performances. Not going to lie, it’s a little upsetting that Spencer is the only one nominated for an Academy Award. Someone needs to explain how Henson wasn’t nominated. I know, awards aren’t all that, and half the time they give people and movies way more praise than they deserve (I can’t let La La Land go, I’m sorry). But still. Henson was fantastic in this movie! It always baffles me when all these other award shows nominate actors but then another one doesn’t. Is there really that much variation between them? Apparently. The supporting cast was also really great. Kevin Costner was fantastic and Jim Parsons did a great job of convincing me he could be a jerk.

I don’t want to call this a feel good movie because it focuses on such serious subject matter. At the same time, it was uplifting to see the hurdles these women overcame during such a divided period in history. So, since I wasn’t sad for weeks after seeing HIDDEN FIGURES (see Manchester by the Sea), yes it was a feel good movie.