Released January 6th
Hidden Figures is the “Jimmy Stewart” movie of the year. This true story is about strength, perseverance and heroism against all odds. Many of us are hungry for tales of unassuming, doggedly persistent heroes succeeding in spite of almost insurmountable odds, especially when we feel surrounded at every turn by negative forces. The film is beautifully edited – the rhythm of the narrative never drags. It features magnificent performances which allow you to become completely invested in each of the characters.
Margot Lee Shetterly wrote ‘Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.’ She has a unique perspective on this particular history. She understands the culture at NASA-Langley Research Center – her father worked as a research scientist there. A black woman herself, she knows first-hand the obstacles encountered around every turn, by the women of this story. Shetterly has worked in investment banking in New York and has lived in Mexico, where she and her husband founded an English language magazine. In 2013 she founded The Human Computer Project, an organization whose mission is to archive the work of all of the women who worked as “computers” and mathematicians in the early days of NACA and NASA. The book and the movie materialized out of this work.
Director Theodore Melfi, who gave us last year’s poignant St. Vincent, was perfectly suited to guide this project. He is able to bring out the innate warmth and highlight the strength of each character. Cinematographer Mandy Walker has done a wonderful job giving a feeling of movement to every scene even when the setting is static. Editor Peter Teschner, who worked with Melfi on St. Vincent, has truly captured each character’s humanity, at the same time giving rhythm to the anticipation of a feat that mankind had never before accomplished. One of the greatest unlikely trios of composers ever assembled – the inspirational Pharrell Wiliams (also a producer on the project), industry veteran Benjamin Walfisch and legend Hans Zimmer, created the extraordinary sound track.
Taraji P. Henson is unequivocally believable as “Katherine Goble Johnson” (still alive today at age 98). Johnson accomplished the seemingly impossible as a young black woman in West Virginia. In 1933, she began attending West Virginia State College and graduated summa cum laude at 18 with degrees in math and French. The movie shows why her intellect became ground zero in the fledgling US space program. Octavia Spencer as “Dorothy Vaughn” exudes quiet insurmountable strength. Janelle Monae, the musician/actress who shines in the film Moonlight, aces the role of “Mary Jackson”. Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali are excellent. Glen Powell, though younger than John Glenn actually was at the time, “gets” Glenn’s essence.
It’s easy to see why Michelle Obama chose to host a screening of this film at the White House. Hidden Figures shows us that there can be heroic action where you least expect it. It’s the heroism in their DNA that sets the strong apart from the rest, no matter what background they come from. Whether you are John Glenn or Katherine Goble Johnson, your chance to be a hero is “equal opportunity.”
I saw this movie two days after the death of John Glenn. There were tears in my eyes.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. email@example.com. For previously published review