Movie review: Hidden Figures

After seeing the trailer way back in October 2016, I KNEW I wanted to see the movie Hidden Figures. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it to our neck of the woods until January 6, though it showed in LA and NYC so it could be considered for the Academy Awards. On the ML King holiday, the Wife, the Daughter, and I went to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.

I’ve seen a lot of movies of late, many of them quite good. But a lot of them were downers, frankly. This adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is a solid docudrama depicting the US space race with the Russians in the early 1960s that – no spoiler – we were losing. A group of African-American women working for NASA helped save the day, despite not only the racism but the sexism they faced.

The cast was a great ensemble. Taraji P. Henson (Empire) as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer (The Help, Zootopia) as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe (Moonlight) as Mary Jackson, are all actual NASA staff. At the end of the film, we get to see their real-world accomplishments. Katherine Johnson, for instance, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2015.

Other solid performances included Kevin Costner as the supervisor of the project, Kirsten Dunst as the boss of the colored women who were “computers”; i.e., they computed numbers. Jim Parsons, that sweet guy in Big Bang Theory, played a composite character who was less than supportive of Katherine. Mahershala Ali, who, like Janelle Monáe, was in the movie Moonlight, plays a very different role here, Colonel Jim Johnson, a suitor of Katherine.

There are space scenes that were, if not as intense as those in Apollo 13, nevertheless put the viewers on the edge of their seats, even though WE KNOW that they all made it home safely.

Hidden Figures is a feel-good story with great reviews – and see Ken Levine’s take as well – also doing well in the box office. The audience at the showing we saw applauded vigorously. It may not be the BEST film of the year, but it may well be my favorite.

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