The largely unknown stories of three brilliant black women who, behind the scenes at NASA, were crucial to putting the first American in space and beyond.
Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) were computers before there were machines to do such things. Running numbers for NASA scientists, their individual skills and drive to succeed made them indispensable to the space program in a time when being both black and a woman was just about a death sentence to any career and recognition. Hidden Figures explores the lives of these three geniuses and how they helped shape not on the future of our country’s space exploration, but civil rights along the way.
Told with the same in your face historical racism with a lighthearted twist flavor as films like The Help, Hidden Figures makes for an entertaining as well as enlightening and empowering tale to watch. The cast, which also includes Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, and the “currently in everything” Mahershala Ali, is excellent and immensely watchable. In fact, everything about this film is immensely watchable despite being about uncomfortable to face racist and sexist history and nearly impossible to comprehend genius level math. That means these complex and important historical stories are easily consumed and enjoyed, but of course it necessitates a lot of watering down.
The conveniently formulated arcs of the characters and the significant events they had a hand in are surely the CliffsNotes version of things – it seems obvious that there is quite a bit more to the stories than what we’re able to fit into a diverting and fun to watch couple of hours. Is that a bad thing? Eh, not necessarily – it’s not a documentary, and mass consumption necessitates some bite sizing and sugar coating of things. It still does a good job of conveying the overall sheen of things, and I believe it stays generally true to what really happened. Just don’t expect it to be the full story.
To sum up – it does a good job of being entertaining, interesting, and relevant, despite difficult topics. It may be closer to the pop culture novelization of complex and important historical moments than a bona fide retelling of things as they were, but still maintains integrity and respect for the women who it is celebrating. A good, inspirational movie, but I don’t see it winning any major awards.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“It’s nice to learn about minority characters’ importance in history. I wish there were more movies like this.”
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Four out of five hats
Hidden Figures is unveiled in wide release starting January 6