tek's rating: ¾

Hidden Figures (PG)
20th Century Studios; History vs Hollywood; IMDb; Levantine Films; Margot Lee Shetterly; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Disney+; FandangoNOW; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu

This came out in 2016, but I didn't see it until 2020. I was planning on watching it on the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, in 2019, but somehow that failed to happen, so I watched it the same date the next year. It's not actually about the Moon landing, but it is about NASA's space program in the 1960s, so I thought it a fitting date, anyway. As with any historical drama, there are of course some inaccuracies in the story, but on the whole it's close enough to reality, I guess.

The movie begins with a scene set in 1926, when Katherine Goble was a young girl who is recognized as a mathematical genius, and accepted into a new school. We then flash forward to 1961, when Katherine (now played by Taraji P. Henson) is carpooling with Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) to their jobs at NASA. Their car is broken down, and as Dorothy tries to fix it, a cop pulls over. I find it somewhat amusing that when he learns they work at NASA, his attitude immediately changes. Like, national pride and hatred of Russians trumps racism, I guess. Anyway, he gives them an escort to NASA, where they work as "computers." Their group is all black women, but there are other groups of computers.

Mary gets a temporary transfer to the engineering department, and has a storyline about how she wants to become a permanent part of that team. Dorothy, meanwhile, has been doing the work of a supervisor in her department, though she doesn't have that title, so she wants a promotion. We mostly see her interact with a woman named Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst), who I guess is a supervisor of all the different groups of computers, or something. And one day, NASA gets an IBM, which basically fills a room (and is never referred to as a computer). But no one seems to know how to work the thing, until Dorothy teaches herself- and later her fellow computers- how to program it. But the main character in the story is Katherine, who gets transferred to work with the Space Task Group, under the direction of Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). Of course, we see various types of racial discrimination she has to deal with. And she clashes, to some extent, with the head engineer, Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons). Outside of her job, she meets a man named Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali, whom I knew from The 4400), who becomes her love interest. (Katherine is a widow with three children.)

Aside from that, everyone's under pressure to figure out how to get a man into space, which Russia has already done. There is of course a tremendous amount of difficulty with both the math and engineering. We also see a few potential astronauts, the main one being John Glenn (Glen Powell, whom I knew from Scream Queens). Eventually, he's the one who goes into space, in 1962, aboard the Friendship 7 orbital capsule.

And I guess I don't know what else to say, except there's just a lot of good drama on a person level for the three main characters, as well as on a group level for the STG and pretty much all of NASA and really, all of America, by implication. And it's a very inspirational movie, in a number of ways.


based on a true story