PLOT- Hidden Figures is the true story of three African-American women who worked as mathematicians for NASA during the early 1960's. Katherine Johnson ( Taraji Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), encountered both racism and sexism, as they fought for their right to achieve success in their careers.
LIKE- After weeks of wanting to go see Hidden Figures, and reading all of the rave reviews, Dan and I planned a date night to see it. The theatre was absolutely packed on a Monday evening, and when we had tried to see it the previous weekend, the screenings were sold-out.
I visited Kennedy Space Center twice in 2016, and it occurred to me, that I did not recall seeing an exhibit mentioning any of these women. I don't actually remember seeing many exhibits explaining the "behind the scenes" NASA work. I suppose it's less glamorous than the astronauts. In the film, this was even shown, with the astronauts arriving at Langley to great fanfare. This said, while the astronauts may have been putting their lives on the line (clearly, no small sacrifice), they could not have gone to space at all, without the engineers, scientists, and mathemeticians working late hours to figure out how to do something that had not yet been done. The stress of this task was immense: with knowing that the astronauts lives were depending on their work and having the time pressure of beating the Russians. These factors helped break-down color and sex barriers, allowing the women to be part of the NASA team, because of their extraordinary talent and intelligence.
Of the three women, Katherine Johnson is the one who has a talent that makes her indispensable. She is a math genius, who corrects equations of her male coworkers, and comes up with the solution for John Glenn's reentry, a problem that her colleagues had not been able to solve. Johnson's boss, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), is focused on talent and who can get the job done, and although Johnson must find ways to get his attention, when he realizes that she is an asset to his team, he not only gives her credit where credit is due, but turns to her for help.
Dorothy Vaughan fights discrimination to gain a much deserved job promotion. She is acting as the supervisor for the segregated women's group, but she is in that role as a long-time temp. When she discovers that she has been denied the promotion, and that she will be expected to continue to cover the position without a title or pay raise, she fights back by making herself knowledgable with the new IBM computers. She teaches the other women in the segregated group, and when it is time to switch to the computers, rather than facing unemployment, they meet the future head on and take over the department.
Mary Jackson dreams of being an engineer, but is held back from career advancement due to some extra college courses that she must take. The only classes available in her area, are at an all white school, but she does not give up. Jackson petitions a judge for her right to an education and is granted access to the classes she needs. One of the most feel-good moments of Hidden Figures is when Jackson walks out of the court room and is joyful in her victory.
I didn't realize how close NASA was cutting it, with regard to figuring out calculations in time for John Glenn's planned launch. Hidden Figures made me think that the early-mid sixties was an exciting time for human advancement with the space race. In Hidden Figures, you got a sense that despite the Vietnam War and fight for civil rights, that most Americans seemed to have a collective sense of pride and enthusiasm towards space exploration.
My parents lived in Virginia during the same time as Hidden Figures and it was the first time that either of them had seen segregated facilities. They were both white and from California, but to hear my mom tell it, it was a big culture shock. They had African-American friends and colleagues back home in California, segregation was not something they had seen or that had been part of their lives, it made them both highly uncomfortable. Even knowing about it from my parents and History books, these scenes in the film, for example Johnson having to run 1/2 a mile across Langley to use the "Colored Toilet," or her white colleagues pointedly leaving a separate coffee pot for her, after she uses the communal coffee pot, made me feel sick. I'm an optimist, but I don't wear rose-colored glasses: I know America still has plenty of racism and sexism ( with the Trump administration this is becoming increasingly obvious ), but I do think things are better since the 60's and will continue to get better with each generation.
Besides its historical significance and honoring of three women who made an important contribution to NASA, you should see Hidden Figures because it has a marvelous cast and is an uplifting story about fighting for your dreams.
DISLIKE- Not a single thing, I was engaged from the first scene.
RECOMMEND- Yes!!! You must see Hidden Figures, it's an important story.