When you watch a movie based on true events that you watched when it was happening and know the ending it takes a good director, Theodore Melfi, good screenwriters, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, to get you caught up in the events being  shown on the screen and “Hidden Figures” is such a movie.

There is also another part to the film that has a tag line “the untold true story” and that is a story most people, Black and White, don’t know about. The film takes place in months leading up to John Glenn (played by Glen Powell) who figures importantly in this film aside from being an astronaut and racism is still ingrained in the American consciousness. The latter is shown in small and large ways, each effective, whether it is a woman having to run a half a mile to go to the ‘colored women’s bathroom” even though she is capable and does help NASA solve many problems to get men in orbit around the world and get them back safely.

Taraji P. Henson is real life Katherine Goble Johnson, a mathematical genius, who knows ‘her place’ and is insulted not only by words but by actions. She is only one woman of two in an office of a dozen men and she is Black having to put up with some indignities to do a job she loves, wants to keep, but when she reaches a point that she has had enough she is not afraid to open her mouth.

The other woman in the office, the group’s executive assistant played by Kimberly is not welcoming and the head engineer, played by Jim Parsons, first has no respect for Katherine and then disdain only to question the knowledge she gives that is more accurate than his. The only one who doesn’t care about her sex or color but her much needed knowledge is her boss Al Harrison, played believably by Kevin Costner.

There are other people in Katherine’s life aside from her 3 children whose husband/father is dead, her mother and, about half way through, a very romantic army officer Mahershala Ali but two others, her best friends, also faces racism because of being Black, though very smart accomplished women. Dorothy Vaughan, played by a strong Octavia Spencer, is in charge of the West Computing Group, as they are referred to, made up of Black women which segregates them from the White women in the East Computing Group. She does the work and puts in the time that a supervisor does but she isn’t given the title and certainly not the pay. She delivers a put down with a smile that hides her pain but tells the truth.

The third woman is Mary Jackson, played by a saucy, smart Janelle Monae, who wants to be an engineer but, due to Virginia laws, is not allowed to attend the classes she needs to get the degree. (Ah Virginia, the State that is also the basis for the movie “Loving” and tells  another true story about that State’s laws.) She has a husband, played by Aldis Hodge, who hesitates in backing her but has a Polish-Jewish refugee, played by Olek Krupa, from the concentration camps, who is all for her going for her dream.

Based on the nonfiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly one doesn’t know how much of the script by Schroeder and Melfi was “Hollywoodized” but a lot of it rings true and the production designs by Wynn Thomas and the costumes designed by Renee Ehrlich Kalfus certainly reflect the era.

The acting by all is first rate but Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae give powerful performances showing how strong and accomplished Katherine, Dorothy and Mary were, the indignities they suffered and how just by being themselves they are role models for all of us.

“Hidden Figures” has two story lines intertwined and as exciting as the race to the moon became the true story of what these three smart women had to go through because of their color was more interesting as the former was familiar to me while the latter was a learning experience about these women I knew nothing about and everyone should.

Movie trailer



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