Hidden Figures - Review

The stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson are on the big screen in Hidden Figures in a film that is both inspiring and embarrassing.

The movie is based on the true story of three African - American women who worked in the colored computing department for NASA; their battle for respect and an opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities.

It's a film telling a complex and multi-layered story in a couple of hours; it can't possibly show all the hardships or convey the time it took co-workers and supervisors to respect and acknowledge the people hiding in plain sight.

One of the powerful moments in the movie for me is shown with Katherine Goble's assignment to the Flight Task Group. When she needs a bathroom break, she has to run a half-mile to find a bathroom she is allowed to use in 1961.

The moment comes to a head when her supervisor demands to know why she is taking long breaks away from the office.  Her explanation results in Mr. Harrison tearing down the colored ladies bathroom signs, explaining, "At NASA, we all pee the same color."

Hidden Figures eloquently shows an important time in United States history as we tried to catch the Soviets in the space race.  It demonstrates how close the line was between success and failure in getting a man into orbit.

Dorothy Vaughn's work in leading a team of human computers, then teaching herself computer coding and preparing a team before a need arose is inspiring as is Mary Jackson who helps engineer the solutions to space flight.

The embarrassing part of the film is realizing how fear and ignorance created an atmosphere where talents were forced between the lines, hidden from view.  Sadly, it can still be the case.

Kirsten Dunst plays Mrs. Mitchell, the person to whom Octavia Spencer's Vaughn reports.  Late in the movie, Mitchell apologizes after a fashion saying she didn't really mean anything by it.  Vaughn's answer eloquently tells the whole story, "I'm sure that's what you thought."

4-1/2 stars out of 5 and a strong recommendation to go see Hidden Figures.