For all its melodrama and hokeyness Hidden Figures is a worthy film; a genuine story of defying expectations and persevering to achieve the impossible. The crowd-pleaser is a three-part narrative telling the real stories of three African-American women in 1961 working as “computers” for NASA. Their names, hidden then and commemorated now, are Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson.
Hidden Figures was directed by Theodore Melfi with a screenplay co-written with Alison Schroeder and based on the book by Margot Lee Shatterly. Melfi makes some cheesy choices and he got a great assist from NASA itself allowing him to use actual footage of rocket takeoff and reentry. When real life is so spectacular, often the writing does itself. There are kinks that can be disruptive and compressions must be made, but in the right hands the kinks work themselves out.
Taraji P. Henson has never been so understated and only shows flashes of her boisterous natural self when necessary. Octavia Spencer is always steady and Janelle Monáe is a future acting star. Kevin Costner is a treasure and both the length and quality of his career is commendable. He is the boss here—literally and figuratively.
We live in a time of intense division and often take for granted our progress. The year 1961 was not that long ago. Of course, we’ve advanced in terms of liberties and opportunities for women and minorities and the film shows how drastic the changes have been. But, on the other hand, do we complain as little, work as studiously, or dream as big? What is our moon?