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.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

9 thoughts on “Movie review: Hidden Figures”

  1. It really is my favorite of the last year; I left the theater feeling awesome. 🙂

    There’s one unrealistically dramatic scene that irked me slightly, but it turned out to be the favorite scene of the 12-year’old girl I took to see it. I realized that the scene was necessary for some audience members to fully empathize with the characters.

    Great film. Not the most artistic, but definitely the feel good movie of the year for me.

  2. I don’t want to spoil anything, but when Kathy loses it on Harrison and describes all the inequities she faces, and then Harrison goes and literally smashes them.

    It’s not realistic and definitely doesn’t fit with any engineers or mathematicians I know, but my little didn’t understand things like the coffee pot or the fact she was paid much less for the same work.

  3. I don’t know if the smashing happened, but the reason for the smashing DID happen, albeit to one of the other women.

  4. I just didn’t feel the scene was consistent with Kathy’s character. I couldn’t see her having a meltdown at work like that.

    I’m not sure how else I would have written it. Harrison would have had to be more empathetic, but I like how he was written as a pragmatic (not particularly supportive of civil rights, just looking for the best people to get a difficult job done.)

    I also realized I could never possibly do what those women did. It would drive me insane to deal with that constantly. It would drive me insane just to live as a black woman in the segregated south, period.

  5. I think the meltdown was a Popeye moment – it’s all I can stands, ’cause I can’t stands no more. But I think you would be able to do what they did because you HAD to. You do what’s necessary to survive, and in the Jim Crow South, that’s what it was. The bathrooms, the water fountains, where you ate, where you slept. That’s why travelers had the Green Book.

  6. “Hidden Figures” is one of the more joyful and hopeful movies I’ve seen in a long while. It FELT like 1961, and the parallel lines of the Space Race and the personalized presentation of the Civil Rights struggle were inspirational without being presented in an overly-dramatic manner.
    Unity of Purpose, Endurance, and Excellence as an unbeatable combination.

  7. But people did go lose it at a pretty good clip in the segregated south. I think that’s why alcohol and drug abuse were and are so prevalent: it’s just things like depression and hopelessness.

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