How did we not know about this story before now?! That’s the biggest question I had after watching Hidden Figures, what I venture to call the best feel-good movie to hit theaters in recent weeks, months, or possibly even years. It’s based on the fascinating, true story of three African-American women who were part of a segregated ‘human computer’ division at NASA that ‘did the math’ that helped send astronaut John Glenn into orbit at the height of the space race in the early 1960s. Talk about the right stuff. These women had it.
The film boasts a great ensemble cast led by Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Janelle Monáe (Moonlight), who emerged this year as a true singer-actor double-threat. They play three smart, strong women who had to battle race and gender discrimination to fulfill their potential at the space agency. The story centers primarily around math whiz Katherine Johnson (Henson) and her critical contributions behind-the-scenes.
The supporting cast includes a few guys – including Kevin Costner as a composite character of NASA boss types, Jim Parsons as a much less-likeable nerd than Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory, and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) as Katherine’s love interest and husband-to-be. But it’s the women who rule this movie, delivering terrific performances that make Hidden Figures an entertaining, inspirational, and family-friendly experience.
Hidden Figures is the type of movie that sends you looking for additional information about the story and real people involved. A good starting point is the book upon which the movie is based, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly. Also, it’s worth noting that the real-life Johnson received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. And she remains, at 98, an inspiration for anyone of any age or gender interested in pursuing a STEM career (science, technology, engineering, and math). What a cool chick!