Thursday, 23 February 2017

Hidden Figures Film Review

I caught Hidden Figures earlier this week and it was very impressive. Reaching for the moon in black and white.

We meet Katherine Goble, played by Taraji P. Henson, as a maths gifted child; given a full scholarship to an important school. And we then catch up with her in a trio of gifted women working for NASA. And their car has broken down.

Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer, is under the car, Mary Jackson, played by Janelle Monáe is applying lipstick. And Katherine is staring into space. A policeman driving along happens upon the girls and when he finds out they work for NASA. Every day working with John Glenn and the guys. Well, he gives these important NASA girls a police escort.

But the girls work in the West Computer section. For coloureds. Each girl in this bunker is assigned daily a department by Dorothy. As acting supervisor. Without the uplifted pay or title. Kirsten Dunst playing against type as the officious Mrs Mitchell. And making sure it will stay that way too.

But these girls are feisty as well as very clever. Katherine is transferred to the Space Task Group as the only one who can work the maths to calculate the space flight trajectories. With boss Al Harrison played by Kevin Costner. And the only permitted jewellery in the office, says Mrs Mitchell, is a single string of pearls. Katherine is going to be the 'Computer', and girls who take on the role generally don't stay too long in the hectic, high profile role. Plus they've never had a 'coloured', notes Mrs Mitchell.

Kevin Costner isn't quite the ogre we're led to believe his character will be, and recognises that Katherine is a genius. Calculating the precise maths, even though she's working with figures on paper that has been heavily redacted by head engineer Paul Stafford. Played by Jim Parsons. Can you imagine any one else in the role!

Mary is very happy to find herself working with the male engineers on the space capsule. And has ambition to become an engineer herself. She is actively encouraged to apply for the NASA engineering training course. Only to have her application rejected as to be considered she now needs extra qualifications on top of her degree. The goal posts constantly move for the women.

Dorothy meanwhile seeing that NASA have invested in an IBM computer, that will make the girls math brains redundant, acquires a FORTRAN computer programming book. And learns how to program the new computer. As well as training all the girls working for her, in this new exciting computer coding field.

The film charmingly explores the lives of these women; their family and their loves. All played out within fiercely segregated Virginia. At a church social, widow Katherine, meets the dashing army officer Jim Johnson, played by Moonlight's Mahershala Ali. But he doesn't take her work seriously.

These girls have a lot to prove.

It'a difficult for any of us now to imagine the segregation they lived under. Separate schools, bus seats, libraries, bathrooms. And incredibly even coffee pots.

I loved John Glenn's character played by Glen Powell. He saw the clever girls for who they were. And not what colour they were.

Directed by St Vincent's Theodore Melfi the film is unmissable. Nail biting as my space history knowledge isn't that big. And awe inspiring that these women could achieve so much. I'll admit I struggled with quadratic equations in maths ending up with a B. To these girls they're just the warm-up.

It must win a Best something at Sunday's Oscars. At least Best Film.

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