Review: Hidden Figures

The colored computers of Hidden Figures on the march

I loved Hidden Figures. Maybe a man could watch this film and not love it, but there is no way a woman could watch Hidden Figures and not love it. It was the most emotionally satisfying film I’ve seen in a long time.

Nominated for Best Picture for a 2017 Academy Award, Hidden Figures was a great movie – a movie everyone should see. It tells an important untold story.

In the early days of NASA’s space program, a large number of African American female mathematicians and engineers worked for NASA. They were stuck off in a separate building by themselves. They interacted only occasionally with supervisors who came to collect their work.

Three women from among this crowd were selected to be featured in the film. All three set precedents. Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) accomplished things their white, male bosses couldn’t have done without them.

Katherine Johnson did much of the calculation that put John Glenn in orbit and brought him safely home. Dorothy Vaughan taught herself Fortran and figured out how to use the gigantic IBM mainframe that NASA installed but couldn’t run. Mary Jackson helped engineer the Mercury capsule.

It wasn’t easy to do accomplish any of those things in 1961. Segregation was legal. Racism was overt. Every obstacle that living in a Jim Crow world could put in the face of the African American women of NASA was put in their faces. Nevertheless, they persisted.

Here’s what I loved about the film.

a group of NASA mathmaticians watch the space fight on TV
Watching the rocket launch on TV

I loved group shots of all those smart women watching the rocket launches on TV – watching their work come to fruition. I was watching the same thing on my TV, unaware that anyone but a gang of white men had contributed to the success of the space program. I loved seeing them watch the John Glenn flight through store windows or from the ground, or in Katherine Johnson’s case inside the control room. I was watching the same thing with great excitement on my own TV.

I loved the mass march of African American women from their exiled outpost of a building into the main NASA building because Dorothy Vaughan taught them to program the IBM mainframe. They took over the IBM lab!

I loved the way Katherine Johnson insisted on putting her name on reports along with that of her boss, Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons). I loved the way she finally snapped about having to run half a mile to the bathroom because there was no bathroom a “colored” was allowed to use in the building where she worked.

I loved the way Mary Jackson convinced a judge that she should be allowed to take night classes in engineering at an all white high school.

I loved the scenes of family life, parenting, love, and fellowship.

I loved the way racism and discrimination were portrayed. Even the youngest of today’s moviegoers will understand it.

I loved the inspirational message of the film. Brilliant, inspiring women of color finally getting the recognition they deserve. It’s uplifting in so many ways.

I loved seeing the real faces of the women featured in the film during the ending credits.

If you haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet, you really must. You might enjoy this video of Katie Couric talking with the three stars about the film. What the actors say about the film and their characters is as inspiring as the film itself.

4 thoughts on “Review: Hidden Figures”

  1. Oh, Virginia! Thank you for writing about this. I was thinking about going to see it, but hesitating because of time constraints, but now, I will go for sure! A beautiful review, showing such an understanding of the issues. I am on the way to put it on my FB and Twitter pages!

  2. I’m male and thought it was an amazing movie with good performances by all.I was aware of these fine women and actually there was an episode of that new series “Timeless” that referred to one of them. Haven’t seen Moonlight yet but hard to believe it was better than “Hiidden Figures”

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