Hidden Figures is simply remarkable
In 1962, the first American astronaut John Glenn went into space and successfully orbited the Earth. It was then when a national hero was born. But what’s not known is the group of African-American women behind the scenes who were crucial in launching this astronomical feat – mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), aspiring engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and computer supervisor Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer).
Adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, the film’s release is an important and crucial reminder to our current society about acceptance and respect, in the thick of the negativity and xenophobic incidents happening in our everyday lives.
Hidden Figures – (PG)
w Chinese Subtitles
Director: Ted Melfi
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, Kevin Costner
Duration: 127 mins
The film starts out with a rather upbeat tone when the trio was stopped by a White male policeman who didn’t believe they were NASA employees. While that came as a nice introduction, together with Pharrell’s bouncy underlying soundtrack, it actually sets the beginning of what’s to come – the vile segregation of the coloured and white community.
Katherine, one of the most brilliant employee, finally moves up the ranks to join the office of the Space Task Group, where manager Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) sees her special talent. Despite her days being bullied by her all-male, all-white coworkers, especially her direct supervisor Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons), she bites the bullet to ignore the racism and sexism she faces every day.
Her close friends, Mary and Dorothy each have their own story arc: Mary becoming the first African-American to take up night courses in order to apply for a job in engineering; and Dorothy preps her group of ladies to operate the IBM calculating machines, while slowly inching her way up the NASA corporate ladder.
Perhaps, for a Singaporean living in a bubble during her growing-up years, to watch how society separated the white and coloured into defined physical compounds, was shocking. To learn that the people of colour had to only use bathrooms and drinking fountains which were separated from the rest (though they serve the same purpose), was hard to watch.
There is no need for frills or added CGI, for the film stands out is its timely social cause of struggle and willpower and the sheer brilliance of the three actresses and their remarkable performances. To watch the three characters fight for their rights in a suppressed era, especially Henson’s one truly breakout moment, feels like a triumph piece for all.
Hidden Figures is ultimately a feel-good film with its warmth and empowering energy that overflows through the remarkable stories of these three women. Entertainment aside, it brings us back to the current situation as a living community, to reflect if those discriminative moments are in the past or present.