Feb-7-2017

Reel Snippet – Hidden Figures

Summary: The year is 1961 and words on everyone’s lips are “space race.” NASA is working around the clock to beat the Russians, especially our three heroes: gifted mathematician Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), aspiring engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and supervisor-in-all-but-title Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer). There’s only one thing standing in the way of their careers — their race. Welcome to segregated America. But after the Russians launch their satellite, supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) brings in the women of color to redouble their efforts. Katherine finds herself under Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) to calculate the launches and reentries of their next satellites and rockets. The ladies keep fighting for their dreams even as they keep getting obstructed and pulled back, but they still continue to push for the launch of their rocket and their equality.

Review: Hidden Figures was quite good, shedding some much needed light on several unknown trailblazers in our space program. All three leading ladies turn in great performances, bringing life and vigor to their roles that draw empathy and support from the audience. Also, this is probably the only time you’ll hear me praise a Kevin Costner performance because he gives a good performance as the overworked, beleaguered, and even resigned supervisor of mathematics trying to turn the tide of the Space Race. In fact, all of the performances are great in one way or another.

Special mention, though, goes to Jim Parsons, who extends his range far beyond Sheldon Cooper to play the weasley scientist trying his best to obstruct Katherine from succeeding. He’s not your overt cackling racist either; he legitimately doesn’t see what he’s doing as wrong or unnatural. In fact, all of the racism is like that, subversive and underplayed rather than blatant and blunt, painting a clearer picture of how prejudice actually works. While we’re on the subject of injustice, seeing this movie made me realize how similar the “white and colored bathrooms” situation in those days is to the matter of transgender bathrooms today.

As for the rest of the movie, well, there’s not much else to say. It’s a biopic, so I can’t grade it like any other movie with a three act structure. The cinematography is decent, the writing, dialogue, and music seems to match the timeline, and everything else seemed… good. It’s a good movie that tells a good story. I applaud it for introducing the audience to some very influential ladies we wouldn’t have known about unless doing deep research into NASA. Topical, informative, and great to watch, I give this science-history lecture a passing grade.

Fun Tidbit: One of the more powerful scenes in this movie centers around the injustice of bathroom segregation. That’s all well and good, but here’s the thing: NASA had already abolished its segregated facilities three years before the movie took place. In fact, by 1961, Dorothy Vaughan and a number of her racial peer were already transferred to the racially integrated Analysis and Computation Division.


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