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Hidden Figures tells the story of three black women working at NASA’s in a still segregated 1960’s Virginia, each possessing mathematical genius instrumental in sending American astronauts into space.
Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson (played by the equally excellent Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, respectively) are employed at NASA as human computers, women hired temporarily by each department within the corporation that verify necessary mathematic calculations. Segregation is still prominent at this time and provides impossible hurdles that prevent the trio from progressing. Dorothy works acting supervisor over the human computer division who has yet to receive a proper promotion or pay, Mary desires to become an engineer, but cannot due to the fact that the classes required are only offered at an all-white high school. Katherine is hired to work in a department specifically dedicated to perfecting the coordinates for the launch and landing of astronaut John Glenn orbit around Earth, the first American to do so.
Hidden Figures is a wonderful story that not only carries three great performances from the leads, but each of their storylines carries equal weight within the plot lines. One woman’s journey is not played down compared to another for the purpose of extending screen time, each story is important. Even the side story that features a love interest for Katherine Johnson, (played by Mahersahala Ali), is important, because a) it’s true and b) it highlights the fact that despite these women went through turmoil at work every day, and still managed to keep stable home lives despite such turmoil. The screenplay has a great balance. It can be easy to write these characters enduring hardship after hardship, overcoming such hardship, and even after furthering the plot, still referring back and making speeches about such hardship. Hidden Figures always maintains an underlying message of hope and the audience will never stop rooting for the main characters.
There are also great supporting performances from Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst as prospective supervisors. Characters who despite their sometimes questionable actions, you still understand and agree with their intentions.
A story is told in this film that is very powerful, but not particularly well-known. It does not shy away from how bad the racism and sexual discrimination without being over dramatic or preachy. It provides a wonderful narrative about women who despite the odds got very far in their careers simply because they were the smartest person in the room. It also hits home because the storyline is still relevant today. Despite being in the news, race relations and sexual discrimination is a subject that is still not talked about enough, and to see such unfairness happen to hard-working tenacious women with superior intellect is still shocking.
Hidden Figures is not just an important film, it’s a good film. It’s an entertaining film. It’s a film for everyone. Children can watch this and understand the weight of what’s happening and still be able to watch it again, and they may leave the theater inspired. I did!