Hidden Figures
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Hidden Figures

This gloriously entertaining slice of American history will make you want to stand up and cheer. In many ways, it is just the movie we need right now.

Easily digestible, this is the story of three African American women who worked as mathematicians in the early days at NASA. Allison Schroder’s screenplay, along with Theodore Melfi’s direction, sums up the plot pretty much by the numbers; there are no special effects or high falutin’ artistry to jazz things up. Everything is laid out pretty directly. The whites at NASA, even the well intentioned ones, don’t necessarily see the racism, or sexism, at play. Inequality is the norm, even if that norm is self-defeating, keeping the input from some of our greatest minds grounded as those around them are shooting for the stars.

While we may cringe as we watch a woman have to run to a half mile just to use a restroom, or to hear a supervisor instruct one of the sharpest minds on the campus “They’ve never had a colored in here before, Katherine, don’t embarrass me”, we also get to see one woman take on the system to become an engineer and another to lead a team of colleagues as they figure out a bulging computer system none of the white guys can master. And yes, there’s a love story, there are children to raise and some lovely moments where suspicious characters get woke. Two of my favorite of those involves John Glenn who, here, not only takes time on a receiving line to stop and meet the black women ignored by others, but who also insists on having the great mathematician Katherine Johnson check the numbers before he enters his space capsule.

Credit actors Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer for making us love these real life heroes. And their supporting cast, led by a spot on Kevin Costner, is terrific, too, expanding characters that on the page, seem rather simple.

There’s nothing simple about the impact of it all, though. Yes, this is very much a story of empowerment, of women of color not just defeating the odds, but rising to their true heights. It is also a story of what can happen when we all learn to respect one another and work together, a lesson that rings especially important today.

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