Director: Theodore Melfi
Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) are three African American scientists who helped put men into space while struggling for equality in 1960s Virginia. Based on true events, Hidden Figures follows Mary fighting for the right to go to an all white school to get an advanced engineering degree, while Dorothy works to keep her job in the face of technological advancements and Katherine is determined to receive the respect she deserves as one of the biggest brains in all of NASA. This is the compelling story of these three brilliant minds, who happen to be African American women and because of that, are not treated as equals.
This film is absolutely wonderful and deserving of it’s many academy award nominations, including best motion picture. I love how it shows just how hard these women’s lives were, and just how much discrimination they faced. They were three highly intelligent women who were treated like garbage because of their gender and the colour of their skin. Katherine had to walk half a mile because there were no “coloured” washrooms anywhere near her desk. Mary had to persuade a judge to get a court order for her to be allowed into school – for night classes! Dorothy was doing all the work of a supervisor, but because she was African American, did not receive the pay or title. On top of that, all three women were moms! Each one of them had at least two children! After watching this film it really reminds you how far respect and nondiscrimination has come.
Another thing that was amazing about this film is that they talk about all the science that was happening during that time in NASA. Due to the race to space between the USA and Russia, the 1960’s were an exciting time for science and technology. This film shows a lot of the cool math and science and technological advancements (like the development of computers) from that decade. What’s even cooler is that they barely dumb it down for the audience! We get to see everyone’s calculations and hear about fortran, the language of the computers, and even technical things like the problems with the heat shield. I really appreciated being able to learn a little bit while watching the film.
I also particularly enjoyed how not every single black person was nice, and not every single white person was mean. There was Mr. Harrison (Kevin Costner); who was the leader of NASA and didn’t care that Katherine a women or that she was African American, he just wanted her to do her work. If there was something impeding her, he would get rid of it, like giving her complete clearance of information or getting rid of all the “coloured” washrooms and just making them “washrooms” so that she could take less time in the bathroom (because she wouldn’t have to run half a mile in heels). Then there was Colonel Jimmy Johnson (Mahershala Ali) who said something pretty sexist the first time he met Katherine. “They let women in the science program?” Ya. He said that, as if he was trying to woo her. Not the best pick up line. This film wasn’t just black and white (for lack of a better metaphor) when it came to good and bad characters. Everyone was their own person with their own opinions.
One thing that was subtle and yet still absolutely wonderful was the soundtrack. It wasn’t loud or what you were meant to focus on, like in a film such as “La La Land” (another Academy Award nominee) and yet it was just as good. It supported the scenes very well, you didn’t focus on it and yet it filled the spaces where there was no dialogue so you could concentrate on the scenery or the intense math sessions. It was very versatile, from the songs that are playing on the radio, to the songs sung in the church scenes, to the scenes that are supposed to be ‘silent’, but you want something to fill that noise gap so it isn’t jarring. This film did all this perfectly and made it sound effortless.
One thing that I didn’t like about this film, is that they kind of glossed over Mary Jackson’s story. We see that she is smart enough to be an engineer but doesn’t have the credentials due to her lack of an advanced engineering degree. What we never see is what she works on at NASA. We see her home life and her hanging out with Dorothy and Katherine, but we rarely get a chance to see just what she normally does at NASA. I for one, would have loved to see what she did because she worked on the more scientific and less mathematical stuff for NASA and that’s something we don’t really see in the film. I think if we got more insight into Mary’s life we would be able to see the cool science things NASA was doing at the time along with the cool math they were doing.
All in all, this movie was near perfect. It had a wonderful story line, was based on true events, had moments of comedy even though it was a very serious film, and even had an amazing original score. I hope the Oscars treat Hidden Figures very well, because this film deserves each and every award it has been nominated for.