Review: Box Office Hit “Hidden figures” Brings Light to Forgotten Piece of Nasa’s History

Based off Margot Lee Shetterly’s  novel of the same name, “Hidden Figures,” directed by Theodore Melfi,  recognizes three brilliant African American women for their immense contributions to John Glenn’s 1961 orbit around the Earth.  The film broadcasts the story that textbooks neglected to tell, to bring the vast accomplishments of the three NASA workers to the big screen where their stories will be immortalized and forgotten nevermore. With an all-star cast, an untold inspirational story and a soundtrack that gives the film a funky rhythmic heartbeat, there’s not much of a surprise the film has gained $22.8m in opening weekend revenue.

Taking place during 1962 amidst the Great Space Race, three brilliant NASA workers fight hard to pave the way to recognition and achievement in a world that attempts to silence their genius due to their gender and skin color. At the time, Russia had launched a satellite known as Sputnik, an advance the U.S had not made but was frantically attempting. The U.S was then rushing to put the first American into orbit but to do so they needed the amazing launch calculator, Katherine G Johnson (Taraji P Henson); a brilliant engineer, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and natural born leader, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer.)

Taraji P Henson, best known for her fierce role as Cookie on TV drama “Empire,” showcases her flexibility and capacity to venture into new roles by playing Katherine Johnson.  Just due to being an African American female, Katherine had to work twice as hard as everyone all while enduring vicious glares and needing to run half a mile to use the colored bathroom. Henson’s most powerful scene is one in which her character speaks out on the unfairness of her restroom situation and how she has been harassed due to the color of her skin. Her powerful words result in her boss Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) furiously ripping the colored bathroom sign off the wall.

Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer just recently received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her strong performance as the intelligent natural born leader Dorothy. The film also received the Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score. Mostly written by Pharrell Williams, the soundtrack gives the film a  soul-filled rhythmic heartbeat. The soundtrack includes songs performed by Janelle Monae, Mary J. Blige as well as Williams. Audience members will be unable to resist a smile in uplifting scenes of triumph accompanied by the toe-tapping music.

In order to accurately depict the immensity of their accomplishments the movie needed to also highlight the powerful forces working against the women and those who attempted to keep them from success.

While eventually he has a change of heart, for most of the film Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) a fellow launch calculator does anything and everything to suppress Katherine in her efforts to work on the project. Parsons is no stranger to playing brainy scientists having been Sheldon Cooper in Big Bang Theory for 10 seasons, but he certainly takes on his new task of being an annoyingly rude genius exceptionally well. Vivian Micheal (Kirsten Dunst) who is utterly convinced she has nothing against people of color but her demeaning comments and lack of overall respect toward Dorothy would prove otherwise.

People will undoubtedly ponder whether the film is historical fiction. It seems so impossible that history neglected to teach this empowering story and that filmmakers took so long to pick that story up.  Sure enough due to the intense segregation and Jim Crow laws of the time the three women’s accomplishments were so heavily muffled that their stories are not well known today. The film appears to be heading down the path of finally granting writer Margot Lee Shetterly’s wish of making this untold piece of Nasa history common knowledge.

 

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