With Oscar night looming, the best picture nominees are slowly hitting theatres around the country. Hidden Figures is the true story of 3 African American women who defy both racial and gender discrimination to play important parts in one of the most uniting events in human history – the space race. So is it any good?
Hidden Figures is the true story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), three brilliant minded women working for NASA in the early 1960s. The women all work in the ‘Colored Computing’ division, and the film follows their stories as they are assigned out to different divisions of NASA. Katherine, a brilliant mathematician, is assigned to the ‘Space Task Group’ working with the team calculating trajectories for the Mercury 7 missions. Mary aims to become NASA’s first female engineer whilst working on the Mercury capsule, and Dorothy decides to expand her horizons by teaching herself programming and working with one of the first IBM computers.
Hidden Figures is an uplifting tale. The story of these three women succeeding through both racial discrimination and a male dominated workplace is captivating. The film has many moments where you’ll be cheering, and several moments where the audiences in our screening gasped at the trials and discrimination that these women had to deal with on a daily basis. There’s both pain and joy on the screen here and it provides an interesting and different perspective of the early days of the United States Space Program.
The cast all bring their A game. Taraji P. Henson is wonderful as Katherine – bringing a quiet strength to the character. She shines throughout the film and has a wonderfully powerful scene where she confronts her boss (Kevin Costner in a solid supporting role), standing up for herself, her abilities and her important role in the team. Likewise both Octavia Spencer (whose scored a Best Supporting Actress nod for here role here) and Janelle Monáe hold their own and bring wit and defiance to their characters. Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons round out the cast as NASA employee’s who butt heads and underestimate the leading ladies.
The film is full of moments of humor, and joy. This could have been another retelling of the Mercury 7 and the United States play at the Space Race, but Hidden Figures truly is unique view on this historic event, through the eyes of women whom were critically important to the success of the mission. Hidden Figures is inspiring and funny, and has something for everybody. I imagine this will be a hit with audiences when it hits theatres later this month. I wasn’t aware of the story of these women prior to seeing this film, but this film gave me the motivation to look into the careers of these women and be in awe of their achievements.
The film shows how divisive the world can be, but also how united the human race can be when we work together towards a common goal. With the current global political climate, Hidden Figures is a reminder of how far we’ve come, how far we still need to go, and the power of never underestimating anybody no matter their gender or the colour of their skin.
Hidden Figures hits Australian theatres on February 16th.