To prepare my mind for the blur of work, rehearsal, and trying to squeeze in time to write my rough draft that would be this week, I watched Hidden Figures last Saturday. After watching the film, I had to write a review on it.
Hidden Figures tells the true story of three black women working in NASA in 1961. These women are the famous Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, three brillants computers. Katherine was one of the leading mathematicians in the launch on the Friendship 7, which would be the story’s climax. Mary became the first female engineer in NASA, and Dorothy was the first African American supervisor at NASA. The story focuses on their struggles as they try to help their nation reach the stars.
The characters of these three women were incredibly well developed, each one with their own distinguishable personality. One of the greatest developmental parts of the movie was as Katherine worked in the Space Task Group (Spoilers ahead). As the colored women’s bathroom was a half mile away, she would take forty minutes just to go to the bathroom. One rainy day, her boss, Al Harrison, got mad as she was not at her station. When she came back, Harrison started yelling at Katherine, and what did she do?
She started one of the most well written rants I’ve seen in film in a long time, about how she has to go five miles farther than everyone else for every scrap of recognition, and yet she still has to drink from a separate coffee pot and use a bathroom a half mile away. This causes Harrison to throw away the ‘Colored’ coffee pot and allow desegregation of the NASA bathrooms. It was a great scene of character development for both Katherine and Harrison.
Katherine and her fellow computers are wonderful feminist and racial icons. They have a very real relationship, with jokes and laughter and teasing and all the little things that make up the perfect friendship (I didn’t even mean to make that pun, but I do not regret it). Katherine’s burns on Harrison caused the entire theatre to go “OOOOOHHHHHH!”
The story contains virtually every element of 1960’s America. Soviet Union threats, racial and gender rights, women wearing pants for the first time, space, church, every little detail imaginable. It brought me into the 1960’s in a world where women and African Americans were starting to be able to do more and more, and space seemed closer than ever.
The supporting characters were also gems to watch interact with each other. The main character’s husbands supported their wives while still passing along a few sexist comments common of the era to make realistic, enjoyable men. The same goes for the men of NASA, like John Glenn and Al Harrison. They underestimated the skills and abilities of the main characters, but had quite a few redeeming features. Even Paul Staffords, who arguably could be called the film’s main antagonist, was quite redeeming.
The climax had me hanging onto every moment. Since I had never heard of the Friendship 7 before the movie, I had no idea the outcome of the launch. I enjoyed the parallel in the beginning of the scene, with the white man running to find Katherine, taking the same path she had to take when the bathrooms were segregated. I was curled into a ball in my seat, hoping the calculations could help save the day.
Each scene was packed with emotion and laughs, weaving together a story for the ages. Hidden Figures has started off the 2017 year of film with a bang from the 60’s, and a movie I’m sure people will not be quick to forget. If you excuse me, I’ll be listening to Runnin’ by Pharrell Williams on repeat as I hurry to and from my responsibilities, internally screaming.