Hidden Figures honors females in STEM


Ms. Monáe, Ms. Henson, and Ms. Spencer deliver a well-rounded performance that leaves viewers captivated and intrigued. Courtesy of imdb.com

Released nationwide January 6, Hidden Figures follows the story of three African-American women who work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the 1960s. Based on a true story and the nonfiction book of the same name, the movie successfully combines humor, history, and romance to send a message to viewers about the Civil Rights movement and women in technology and science.
Mr. Theodore Melfi directed the biographical drama film while Ms. Allison Schroeder collaborated with Mr. Melfi to write the script. Ms. Taraji P. Henson played the movie’s main character, Katherine Johnson. In addition, Ms. Octavia Spencer and Ms. Janelle Monáe performed the roles of Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, respectively. The film also included guest appearances from Mr. Kevin Costner, Mr. Jim Parsons, and Ms. Kirsten Dunst.
The film is based on the story of Ms. Katherine Johnson, a physicist and mathematician who contributed significantly to trajectory, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths calculations for NASA. She worked extensively on Project Mercury, early missions of Mr. John Glenn and Mr. Alan Shepherd, and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.
In the beginning of the film, viewers witness Ms. Henson, Ms. Spencer, and Ms. Monáe stuck on the side of the road with a broken-down car. While Ms. Spencer attempts to fix the vehicle, a caucasian cop pulls over behind them, inciting worry from the women. From this point on in the movie, the drama and suspense failed to cease.

Ms. Monáe, Ms. Henson, and Ms. Spencer deliver a well-rounded performance that leaves viewers captivated and intrigued.
Courtesy of imdb.com

Heading into the movie, I was initially doubtful of the film’s entertainment value. My opinions turned, however, when the film introduced viewers to the segregated “computing” room where all African-American females worked. Laying out and foreshadowing major plot points of the movie, this scene demonstrated the effects of a segregated and discriminatory workplace on African-Americans in the 1960s.
Although the film was largely focused on the historical aspects of Ms. Johnson’s story, the writers managed to incorporate humor in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. The actors’ sharply executed jokes and sarcasm ignited quick laughs from the audience. The movie’s humor managed to provide much-needed comic relief after intense and saddening scenes.
Romance was present in the film, but it felt forced and unnecessary. The film is strong enough without the love connection between Ms. Henson’s and Mr. Mahershala Ali’s characters. It detracted from the main messages and plot line of the movie, which were enough to keep any age-appropriate viewer invested in the film.
Yet, what made this movie powerful was its message of racial inequality. Ms. Henson, Ms. Spencer, and Ms. Monáe struck the perfect chord in exemplifying the African-American struggle during the Civil Rights movement. Ms. Henson’s emotion-charged speech about the lack of “colored” restrooms in her building left me disheartened. In a subsequent scene, viewers see Mr. Costner dismantling the “white-only” sign from a restroom, sending a powerful message to the audience about NASA’s unforeseen transition into a desegregated workforce.
In addition, Ms. Spencer laments about the office’s refusal to assign her as “Supervisor” in the computing room due to her skin color. While Ms. Spencer’s performance was crisp and snappy, I would have liked to have seen her presence more throughout the movie. She possesses a strong stage presence that deserves attention and reward.
Ms. Monáe exhibited the epitome of the struggle of a segregated education system. In the movie, Ms. Monáe must receive special permission from a judge to attend a night-class at an all-white high school. Upon her arrival in the class, Ms. Monáe leaves a gentle imprint upon viewers through her quick and acute humor and slick responses to her teacher and classmates.
Although Ms. Monáe is known primarily for her career as a singer, her acting skills were up-to-par. She delivered a memorable performance as Mary Jackson and impressed me with her third official movie role.
Hidden Figures is memorable because it encourages young girls to pursue an interest and career in mathematics, science, and technology. The women in this film provide strong performances as mathematicians, inviting moviegoers behind the often closed-doors of NASA and its projects. Hidden Figures makes doing physics calculations with chalk seem entertaining because of the care these actresses put into their roles. The film deserves endless praise for highlighting an issue most movie producers shy away from.
Hidden Figures’ entertainment value is substantial. Although I am not an active moviegoer, my eyes rarely left the screen and I never had the urge to check the time. The plot line is fascinating because it reveals an untold story that was crucial to the success of many NASA missions. The soundtrack is appropriate for the setting and quintessentially captures the emotion behind specific scenes and characters. The costumes and setting are historically appropriate and accurate, leaving viewers with a true representation of the life of a female scientist in the 1960s.
In the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Hidden Figures is appropriate for its time and targets a wide demographic. Hidden Figures‘ storyline, actors, and setting were captivating, making it a must-see movie for 2017.
-Morgan Johnson, Co-Editor-in-Chief