The term “feel good movie” doesn’t necessarily need to be looked down upon. Hidden Figures has forged itself a near perfect formula that combines historical grounding, charismatic leads, rich female friendships, a dash of romance, and a nod to 60’s fashions in telling a story that celebrates three incredible characters.
The year is 1961, and the pressure to send an American astronaut to space is kicked up a notch by the news that the Russians have successfully launched a satellite. The brilliant mathematical mind that can help NASA get there belongs to Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), but the challenge of being the first African-American woman to work in her team is immense – and the lack of a “colored” bathroom anywhere in the building is not the most or least of her problems.
Meanwhile, Katherine’s peers, the undervalued and unofficial supervisor Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and aspiring engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) are fighting their own battles to be taken seriously.
Hidden Figures is based on the true stories of these real women whose place in history was almost completely phased off the record, and while it appears that the magic of Hollywood has filled in the gaps, many of the core plot points come straight from fact.
The nuanced and engaging story provides an intelligent representation of the kind of socially sanctioned racism and sexism that carries repercussions through to our society today. The film celebrates the classic underdog story arc of reaching the top through hard work and determination, but doesn’t neglect to illustrate the full impact of the infuriating injustices these women face along the way. Ultimately, this film had me leaving the cinema swollen with emotion and joy – and the niggling question of whether injecting some intensely modern songs by Pharrell into the otherwise classic soundtrack was really the best choice? (AM)