A must-watch. In the backdrop of 1960s USA when the country was trying to catch up with the Soviets in space, Hidden Figures brings to light the stories of three black women who make their mark in a white-male dominated NASA.
Hidden Figures talks about the struggles of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson to make their mark in the world’s most respected space organization. As US battles USSR in the race to send the first human in space, there is an internal battle that NASA witnesses against racism+sexism. While the rest of the country is obviously divided between whites and colored, surprisingly, a very scientific organization like NASA is also not very different with colored toilets, colored coffee mugs, and colored buildings – just like in general public life where pretty much everything under the sun had a segregation. It is this discrimination that is stopping the US from achieving the full potential of their human talent – leaving untapped the geniuses in the black community. However, sense prevails eventually as these three ladies stubbornly place their foot through the doors of critical operations in NASA and through persistence, make their way through the white+male dominated work environment. They face their own share of struggles but they never give up and place their work above their egos, which sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. Diving into their personal lives where they interact with other fellow blacks, the conversations conveyed the difference in their perspective and approach towards fighting the segregated society very well. The good part about the story is that they have focused more on building positive characters than negative, which makes it a very “feel good” movie as you watch it. However, the best message of the story is that you can only fight oppression by hard work, smart thinking, and persistence – not violence and hatred.
Taraji Henson (playing Katherine), Octavia Spencer (playing Dorothy) and Janelle Monae (playing Mary) are brilliant in their roles. What I loved was the different shades given to the character of each lady, which may or may not be true in their real life. While Katherine is sincere and hard working, Dorothy is mature and very smart and Mary is playful but passionate about her work. These are the kind of roles that gets sketches into the minds for a very long time and these three ladies scored a perfect home run here. Jim Parsons was distinctively noticeable due to his BBT legacy and did well on a larger screen. The role was pretty much in his comfort zone. However, if the director imagined him in a negative shade in the movie, that didn’t come out well. The rest of the supporting cast was good with their limited screen-time.
Theodore Melfi’s direction of the movie is great. From Scene 1 itself, he made it clear that this is not going to be a soap opera of oppression but a “feel good” story of how intelligence prevails over emotions. The character sketch of the three protagonists was very well thought and it brought the much-needed variety in the story. The brilliant execution of the story ensured that audience attention wasn’t lost even for a moment. The mild humor on right occasions added good flavor to the overall movie. On the serious side, the depiction of Dorothy, Mary and Katherine’s struggles against racial and gender discrimination is done beautifully. Theodore very intelligently used the part of the protagonists’ personal lives to convey from where their strengths come and communicate their perspective to life.
Overall, the movie is very well made and must watch. If you grew up in that era, it will be like reliving the old days. If you weren’t, you would get a glimpse of life in those days of segregation.