We are currently going through a period of social change, with many powerful movements making headlines. In the forefront is equal opportunities for women. The recent result of the U.S Presidential election saw tens of thousands of women marching for their rights in Washington and across major cities around the world, creating an explosion of feminist power. This wasn’t just an ‘anti-Trump’ display. These women marched for gender and racial equality.
Enter the timely release of “Hidden Figures”, a movie which conveys these themes in abundance. It is an incredible story which has taken almost sixty years to be told.
Starring “Empire’s” Taraji P. Henson, Jonelle Monae and the Oscar nominated Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures” tells the story of three gifted African-American mathematicians living in 1960’s America, working for NASA. Russia had already sent the first man into Space and tensions between the two global powers were at an all time high. America was losing the space race and with NASA’s space programme under intense pressure to successfully send an American man to space, they required the greatest minds in the country to play vital roles in achieving their goal.
Our protagonist is Katherine Johnson, (Tarraji P. Henson), a widowed mother of two with a talent for equations. Referred to as a human computer, Katherine moves in to the Special Space Task group and defies everyday sexism and racism by impressing her boss (played excellently by Kevin Costner) with her skill and drive to succeed in their mission.
Despite the movie’s focus on Johnson, each female character carries their own important story arc which are developed brilliantly by excellent performances. Jonelle Monae in particular is scene stealing as Mary Jackson, an aspiring engineer who breaks all barriers by fighting for her dreams.“I can’t change the colour of my skin. So I have no choice but to be the first”.
As well as a strong supporting performance from Costner, we also see a subtly brilliant turn from Kirsten Dunst as Mrs.Mitchell, the white female supervisor who begins to combat her own views on racial prejudice. There are some key exchanges between Dunst and the ever wonderful Octavia Spencer, which highlight some of the dramatic segregation between white and African-American women in Society at that time.
With an upbeat soundtrack from Pharrell Williams and fabulous period costumes styled by Renee Ehrlich Kalfus, “Hidden Figures” is a lively movie which is there not only to be enjoyed (which I certainly did), but to be reflected upon. Based on a true story, these women will inspire you to defy stereotypes of segregation (sex or race) and reach to the stars through the power of self belief, hard work and a passion for believing in what is right. An important message at a time in history where civilians can now pay to fly to the heights of space. This would never have been possible without these phenomenal minds who dared to aspire to new heights!
At this year’s Oscars, the now 96 year old Katherine Johnson thanked the audience as they finally applauded her great contributions to history as she was honoured on this enormous world stage.Octavia Spencer announced, “There are those films that shine the spotlight on those whose names are known to only a few, but whose stories are deserved to be told”. Girl power is here to stay and Johnson’s story can now be enjoyed and remembered for many years to come.
If you like these films- you would also like Hidden Figures:
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
The Help (2011)