Hidden Figures is a beautiful story about the unsung heroes behind NASA’s first successful space missions. Based on a true story and led by director Theodore Melfi, we go behind the scenes in 1971 Hampton, Virginia during a time where blacks were still marginalized and opportunities for women were slim.
The story centers around Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). The trio work in the west wing of the NASA building that was set aside for colored people. All bathrooms, break rooms, and water fountains were labeled “colored” or “whites only.”
During their time in the west wing, around 20 some odd women were scrunched in an office, taking whatever short-term projects they could get thanks to Dorothy. She was clearly the leader of the pack and was doing the work of a supervisor but, because of politics and the fact she was black, and a woman, there was no rush to give her the title or the pay.
The child prodigy was Katherine Johnson. She was well into advanced mathematics before she even reached adolescence. All three of them knew their stuff when it came to math, including Mary Jackson who had a background in engineering. But it was Katherine that turned out to be they key ingredient to helping the launch team find the proper coordinates to launch, land, etc.
Not only was the film powerful because it’s based on a true story, the real treat was seeing the reactions from the audience once the film concluded. I was able to speak to many African-American women, many in tears, reliving tough memories of their own experiences of such discrimination and racism in the workplace. It was one of those things that you can’t script, it was purely organic and I felt honored to hear such testimonies.
Janelle Monáe was absolutely amazing as Mary Jackson. Because of her performance in this film I can guarantee you she’ll be tapped for more roles in the future. Octavia Spencer’s character Dorothy was an exemplary leader. When she finally did get the opportunity to move on to a higher role with more responsibility, she refused to go unless she could bring ‘her girls’ with her (no woman was left behind).
There are a lot of mini stories that go along with the main theme but I don’t want to spoil the experience. Janelle Monáe provides all of the comedy you’ll need while showing what perseverance can bring if you just have a little faith. All three women in excelled in their individual endeavors while showing team work and bringing up all of the girls in the west wing.
Hidden Figures gets a 9.5 out of 10. The outpouring of testimonials after the film really touched me. This is a great film for everyone to see and benefit. Kevin Costner plays the typical good guy and sees the need for Katherine in his department, despite everyone’s opinions. It’s just over two hours so you won’t get bored, there’s a lot to learn in the film, and you’ll even find yourself cheering for NASA along with the ladies themselves. It’s a great way to start your weekend.