Hidden Figures tells the little known story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson-brilliant mathematicians who worked for NASA during the Space Race against the Soviet Union in the fifties and sixties. It was the work of these women and countless others that made John Glenn’s orbit of the Earth successful. That this incredible story has not been told sooner is baffling, but hardly surprising. These women made a significant contribution to American history and that fact cannot be overlooked, ignored or minimized.
I found the plot of Hidden Figures to be fairly basic, however it is the spot-on casting and powerful performances that make this one a gem.
Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Empire, Person of Interest) stars as Katherine Johnson in this film and she does a beautiful job. Henson portrays Johnson as a strong woman who is undeniably smart and highly sophisticated. She is likeable right from the start and it is Henson who truly serves as the backbone of this film.
Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae play Johnson’s counterparts Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson respectively. They are referred to as “colored computers” since it is their calculations and findings that make things work at NASA. Academy Award-winning Spencer (The Help, Fruitvale Station) portrays Vaughn as a no-nonsense woman who is highly competent yet also warm and a mother figure of sorts to the women she supervises at work.
Monae (Moonlight) shines in her role as Jackson-a woman with great confidence and ambition. It is her fiery quips and witty comebacks that provide some of the most humorous moments in the film. These actresses are both a delight to watch onscreen and I thought that the trio had very natural onscreen chemistry as both friends and co-workers.
Rounding out the cast are Academy Award winner Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves), funnyman Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), and Fargo’s Kirsten Dunst. Each hold their own and bring the most life possible to their characters. I liked that each had a different response/feeling to working side by side with Johnson, Vaughn and Jackson. Costner’s character Al Harrison was traditional, but fair towards Johnson, while Parson’s Stafford was condescending and rude. Dunst’s character was prejudiced, yet made the most progress in terms of realizing that Vaughn was not inferior, but equal.
There was no single moment where all of the white characters had an epiphany and realized segregation and racism were wrong, which I felt was realistic and honest to the integrity of the story. Even during some of the most pivotal moments in the film, it was apparent that not everyone was on board working with African-American women.
I found that since the focus of the film was what took place behind closed doors, there was little care or concern given to the visuals of the few scenes in space. The CGI was largely unimpressive, which will probably be disappointing to moviegoers who are overly concerned with visuals. In my opinion, these moments are so brief that there is no damage done to the overall film. I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Pharrell Williams’ work in Hidden Figures. He serves as a producer and composer and his music truly complements the film in the best way.
This is definitely a movie worth watching as it tells an important and inspiring story that everyone can enjoy!
Hidden Figures also stars: Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali (he has had quite the 2016!!!), Olek Krupa, Aldis Hodge, Donna Biscoe and Kimberly Quinn. Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) directs and the script is done by Alison Schroder and based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.
Hidden Figures is currently in limited theatrical release, but it will be everywhere January 6th! Make sure you start your New Year off right and go see it 🙂