I'm an engineer. I designed computers, I grew up in the south during the 1950s and 1960s. I was heavily involved in the space race at an early age and watched every launch and recovery on black-and-white TV. I never saw separate restrooms and drinking fountains for "colored" but they were there. I never rode on segregated public buses, but they were there and I knew it. This movie, "Hidden Figures," brings all of these worlds back to me. No, it's not a painstakingly accurate picture. NASA didn't have flat-panel screens back then. Communications between the ground and the Mercury capsules were not static-free. But a lot of this movie feels real. Very real.The protagonists in this movie are three women of color working in one of the most unwelcoming environments they might hope to find: NASA Langley, Virginia, in 1961. As women, they were employed as human "computers" because they were less expensive and they got their numbers right. As "colored" folk, they got their own separate (and sparse) restrooms and their own, separate dining facilities. This was not America's shining hour, even in some place as lofty as NASA.At the same time, civil unrest was rising in the towns. This is the time of Martin Luther King's rise to prominence. It's a time just before the rise of militant civil rights groups. It's a time when resistance to segregation and discrimination was still civil, but as the movie shows, that resistance was beginning to firm up and become widespread.There are several reasons to see this movie: from a civil rights perspective; from a feminism perspective; from the perspective of the early space race when we lagged the Soviet Union, badly. If you lived during this time, see the movie to remember. If you were born later, see this movie to see what things were like.
In the opinion of this reviewer, an extraordinary achievement.The characters on which the film is based were special and unique on their own, and well deserving of the sort of semi-documentary films that Hollywood likes to serve up.However, to take that story and bump it up to a major "feel-good film" that engages the viewer from the getgo and does not let up until the very end of its 2 hour and 5 minute running time, THAT is what elevates this project to greatness.I want to be clear on this because it is important. There are two ways to do a feel-good film. One is (ironically!) by the numbers, using proved plot arcs and other script devices to make it work. An example of this for example is the latest Disney release MOANA which has taken some heat from critics for being derivative and not original. But that, you see, is the tried and true method to achieve the effect that the producers wanted. And it works.The other way to make a film engaging and fun is to use your instincts and your actors to get the most from each scene. No rule book, no fixed way of doing a scene, just doing what works. This is, I believe the way that writer/director Theodore Melfi set out to do Hidden Figures, and boy did he pull it off! The acting is stellar. Costner has matured in his latest film roles and his work here is as far from the nonsense he used to do (like the dreaded Robin Hood) as the earth is from the sun.Taraji P. Henson finally lands a great role, the kind of role she was looking for when she left the hit series Person of Interest a tad early.And every good film or TV series needs a character who is "the glue" or a reference point that the viewer can use, like a compass needle, to see where we are in the main story. Here Octavia Spencer gives the performance of her life as that "glue" and helps the director to pace the film.Highly recommended.
This is one of those "based on true events" films that the moment you return from the theater you're going to hop on the internet and explore the story. That's a good sigh. Unfortunately, here the need to do some fact checking might not stem from all the right reasons.Hidden Figures is an upbeat, inspiring tale about the role three African-American women played in the NASA program during the early 60's. First Katherine Johnson (Henson), our lead, a gifted mathematician and human computer trying to carve out a roll in the Space Test Group. Second, Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer), leader of the "colored computers." She wants both the supervisor title she deserves and to survive the transition to IBM's mechanical computers. Finally Mary Jackson (Monae), who is trying to overcome discriminatory policies to become NASA's first female engineer. These women must meet challenges in the workplace then return home to more struggles African-Americans were fighting nationwide. Having the performances to anchor your character drama goes along way. Henson is solid, but Spencer is Oscar worthy and Monae's performance is part of a spectacular 2016. I will be on the lookout for more from this talent. Kudos to the supporting roles played by Ali and Costner. Beyond the highlight performances, the scenario is well worth a shot. We have seen heroes fighting against segregation. We have seen space race movies. The mix presents America at its finest and most appalling. A cute combo. The woman at the core are also very deserving of a chance in the sun. The problems creep in with presentation. The director/writer Melfi and co-writer Schroeder were clearly unsatisfied with the quiet, real nobility with which these woman conducted themselves. I cannot say if what the creators did is ethical, but the addition of obviously manufactured drama was a damning decision. This leads to some awkward trust issues. After watching some Hollywood like Johnson erupting at her boss's boss, it becomes more difficult to believe in the little things. Did Johnson really need to run a half a mile just to use the restroom? Or even the climax. On the day of the launch, did John Glenn trust Johnson's calculations over the IBM? It turns out only one of these inclusions are factual. Not the one you think, and perhaps the true story demonstrates more bravery. I'm not going to share any more of my digging here. Others asked the same questions and the answers are readily available. The point is after I watched Hidden Figures I wanted to learn if I had been lied too. Sad, because doubts are not what stories this wonderful deserve. Beyond this major stumble, Hidden Figures is well worth anyone's time. Educational, but entertaining. Positive without preachy. Family friendly in a genuine way. At the theater, I sat next to a nineish year old who kept asking her mother questions. The daughter was interested and wanted to follow every detail. The mother gave brisk answers not wanting to miss a moment. That's a true event, I swear, and the best praise for Hidden Figures I can muster.
Appreciation. It's a condition which requires information and understanding and results in increased compassion, acceptance and inclusiveness. There are few ways to enhance appreciation for others more effectively than a well-made movie and the 2016 historical drama "Hidden Figures" (PG, 2:07) takes full advantage of that opportunity. Without being too busy or too preachy, this film helps the audience better appreciate the struggles of being a minority – and a working woman (and even a mother working outside the home) – in the early 1960s, the pressure involved in competing with the Soviet Union in the early years of the space race, the difficult challenges surrounding getting man into space (and returning him safely to earth) for the first time and the courage it required of those who were willing to go. That's a lot for one movie – and might be too much for many – but "Hidden Figures" is up to the challenge.The film is an adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly's book of the same name and follows three black women who worked in NASA's computer section in 1961. That's not to say that they worked on computers – THEY were the computers. Back when electronic computers (with only a fraction of the capacity and speed of today's mainframes) took up an entire room – and were just beginning to be installed in places like NASA – talented mathematicians did calculations for the space program by hand.Dorothy Vaughn (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) is a mathematician who is also mechanically-inclined, develops a talent for programming IBM computers and is a natural leader, but is denied a well-deserved supervisory position by NASA culture – and her supervisor (Kirsten Dunst). Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is a brilliant mathematician who struggles to balance the demands of her increasing responsibilities at NASA with caring for her three young daughters whose father has passed away. Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) is an outspoken aspiring engineer who is held back from becoming an actual engineer because of her lack of education, which she has difficulty overcoming because of segregation.All three women make progress in their attempts to reach their goals and fulfill their potential, but with much difficulty, based on their gender and their race. Dorothy has been managing the women of the computer section for some time, but has to fight for the title and the pay – and even takes it upon herself to learn more about NASA's newly-arrived IBM computer, while understanding that doing so could eventually cost her and her co-workers their jobs. Mary continues to make valuable contributions to NASA's efforts, while trying to work through the catch-22 of needing additional education to become an engineer, with the only nearby school offering such classes refusing to accept any black students.But most of the screen time belongs to Katherine's story. As the most talented mathematician of all of NASA's human computers, she is called up to work in NASA's Space Task Group where she works directly with the standoffish Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) and is supervised by the group's director, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). Even as Katherine continues to demonstrate her capabilities, she is still subjected to drinking coffee from a pot labeled "Colored" and having to walk 20 minutes (each way) to the building where the nearest restroom for black females is located. Eventually, she earns the respect of her peers – and comes to the atte
This is the true story of three African-American women who worked for NASA on the Mercury program in the early 1960s. Solid performances by all, some laugh-out-loud scenes, and some very emotional moments. It's also an important look back at the civil rights issues of the time period. The climax is a bit Apollo 13ish, and I'm fairly certain some scenes were embellished, but who cares. You should walk away from this film smiling, maybe even a bit choked up.And in spite of it being an overall positive experience, I could feel the oppression at certain points - Dorothy at the library just trying to find the right book, but it is in a part of the library to which she cannot gain admittance due to her race. Mary being reminded that she must sit in the back of the court room, again because of her race. Katherine runs across campus just to find a bathroom that she is allowed to use and never once complaining about it until she is publicly berated about her use of time. Kevin Costner's character appears to be a generally good person who doesn't care about race, and yet still never even thought about the difficulty of being forced into a certain bathroom half a mile away. You don't need to understand the mathematics to enjoy the film, but I admit, it was fun to hear some concepts I haven't heard since my college days.The theater was almost full, with people of all ages. I was particularly happy to see some kids there, as there is much for them to take away from this film.Twice during the movie the audience broke into applause, and then applauded at the end credits as well. I don't recall the last time I heard that at a film. And most importantly - I did not see a cell phone light up the whole time - truly a miracle.
Easy on the eye but not worthy of the hype and the Oscar nomination. An interesting story has been directed in a very heavy handed way, which to me was constantly irritating. Almost every scene is overstated to the point that, as others have said, there is a propaganda feel to the film. Did the director really need to portray every white person, bar two, as vigorously racist or anti-women, even though virtually all the characters are clearly intelligent and from well educated backgrounds? This is a film where the message would have been stronger and more credible if a degree of balance and subtlety had been added to the mix. The things I enjoyed: some strong performances by a very capable cast, a very authentic period setting, a story which is totally engaging. The thing which turned me off: the exaggeration.
Engineers and adding-machine operators (called "computers") working at NASA in the early 1960's included a few black women. Since the Civil Rights movement was only beginning, and NASA was located in southern regions of the US, these women were subject to legal discrimination. "Hidden Figures" follows the careers of some of these women. But it does this in a heavy-handed, formulaic way.Ever since "The Ugly Duckling" of Hans Christian Anderson, the formula has been predictable: a member of a despised minority is grudgingly admitted into a previously exclusive activity. Will the minority figure excel in the new position, or will he/she fail miserably, justifying the prejudices of the ruling class? Telling you the answer would be a spoiler, so you'll have to guess it for yourselves, but it's not too difficult.In "Hidden Figures", all the whites are bigots (except for John Glenn and one department head), and all the blacks are hard-working, clean, patriotic moral wonders. This is history dumbed down to junior high-school level. The heroine, a mathematically gifted black widow has managed to stay chaste and raise three perfect children while handling a difficult job under trying conditions. The other characters are no more believable.The period detail is mostly well done, with electric typewriters and glass-knobbed coffee percolators. But in the early '60s, all engineers would have carried slide rules, the way doctors wear stethoscopes. There are none to be seen here. Also, any time the heroine wants to work out a mathematical problem, she has to climb a ladder and write it out on a large blackboard. Scrap paper existed in the '60s.If you want to watch a simple-minded morality play rather than a movie, history reduced to the level of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer", then "Hidden Figures" is for you.
Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women in the late sixties as they become instrumental to NASA in putting John Glen on the moon. Directed by Theodore Melfi and stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Costner and Kirstin Dunst, Hidden Figures would be a good film had it not been so concerned with the idea of the empowerment of women that it forgot to be a good, engaging film. It has the proper ingredients to become a heavy hitter but trades it in using its excellent cast as more of a political statement than anything else.The film starts off by introducing us to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson (Henson, Spencer and Janelle Moàne) in almost the exact same ways. We see that Katherine is a number cruncher and a brilliant woman all around...then the exact same character traits are rehashed for Spencer and Moàne's characters. There is nothing different between the women, there are 3 of the same character in one film. The only difference between the three is Taraji P. Henson's excellent performance that makes her thoroughly enjoyable throughout a film that would have been a direct-to-digital film otherwise. The film does very little to give any development to these women and keeps drowning us in the notion that "this is girl power." It became extremely redundant after awhile and left me waiting for the film to get serious but it never did. This is a film that is more about what the characters did rather than how and why they did it.Overall, Hidden Figures is a bland film with paper thin characters that tries to make more of a political statement rather than make a good film. This is a perfect example of political climate affecting creative endeavors. If there were anything I could say it is: if you're going to see the film, see it for no other reason than Taraji P. Henson's excellent performance. Taking her out of this film in any way, shape or form would have probably stopped this film in the development process but then again, maybe that is where this should have stayed.
A well told story of the 60's - fashion, seriousness of the space competition, but more importantly the contributions of 3 women in a time where they were not even given the credit of having a brain. Why this has not been known for many, many years - that is a sad state. Thank heaven the daughter wrote the book and these women will have the credit they so deserved. A good showing of the discrimination shown the black people in the 60's - it was well represented but the story took front page. I love these women - they were mothers, wives and eventually recognized as experts in their field of math and coding. I grew up in the late 50 and 60's - so impressive that the three did not let anything hold them back. They did it quietly and with respected results - but this story should have been told in the 60's. The acting is excellent, the sets are so believable, the culture is there - thank you Theodore Malfi for a an entertaining and educational film. And Pharrell for the music.
A well-meaning crowd-pleaser, with nice performances and a truly exceptional true story running things, that never chooses to rise above its safely formulaic Hollywood trappings.I found this movie's depictions of such clearly bigoted white people and their Civil Rights era forms of racism (colored bathrooms and coffee pots) that never really digs into the more insidious nature of institutional racism, to be problematic. This overtly racist world feels so far removed that it almost makes it seem like racism has been solved, that it's no longer an issue.All you have to do is be exceptional, a once in a lifetime genius, and racism won't be able to stand in your way. It suggests that black people do have to work harder and be superior in an obvious way in order to overcome, and this is never addressed in the movie. Don't be common, no one can help you then.