Film Review -Hidden Figures (2017)

Hidden Figures is a biographical drama which tells the story of three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the early years of the space program and their struggles and success in contributing to that program in an era of segregation.

I often lament the fact that “they” just don’t make movies like they used to. Today’s films often seem short of a good story and rely too much on special effects and obvious, sometimes gross humor. The development of the characters is often lacking as well as interesting and witty dialogue.

When I envision what a good movie should be, Hidden Figures is exactly what I am talking about. A quiet story about ordinary people of courage who are persistent in the face of rejection and defeat, who live their lives with integrity and honor while also challenging the status quo.

I am a history buff and I love learning about the people and pieces of history that I am ignorant of. Prior to this film, I had not heard the names of Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson and yet they played important roles in a very well known part of history. All three women were brilliant and disciplined mathematicians who worked for NASA in different capacities and were very ably played by Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae.

Each one of these ladies faced the challenges of racism and sexism in a fast paced, male dominated work place. Goble Johnson served as a human computer for the group of men who were responsible for launching John Glenn into space. She faced disdain, doubt, condescension and yet her brilliant mind and strong character eventually earns her the respect she deserves.

Janelle Monae is rather new to films, but her portrayal of Mary Jackson was full of spunk and strength. Her quest to become the first African-American female engineer at NASA meets many road blocks, but her dignity and perseverance in the face of injustice is an inspiration to never give up.

My favorite story in this film however is that of Dorothy Vaughn. She acts as an unofficial supervisor to the colored women’s group, but despite her continual requests for promotion, she is denied. Her anger becomes her motivation. She doesn’t act out or create a scene, she just gets down to business. Dorothy sees an opportunity and she makes both herself and the other women invaluable.

I appreciate how this film not only tells the stories of these incredible women, but also gives us a back stage pass to witness history through the eyes of those who lived it. The early years of NASA and their failures and successes as well as the mindset behind why it was so important to beat Russia into space is fascinating. (On a side note, why is Russia always the bad guy in films?) Not only are we rooting for these women to win, but we also want their prejudiced co-workers to win, because they are all part of the same team -America.

I’m always amazed and impressed by this type of hero(ine) and this film does a great job of bringing their stories to life and to light. This is a movie that the whole family can watch and be inspired by. I urge you to see it.

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