Review: Hidden Figures (2016)


Hidden Figures is the long overdue true story of how a group of African-American women helped NASA in the early days of this nation’s space program.

At the onset of the film, We’re introduced to the lives of three friends working in the ‘Colored’ staff, located in the basement of a separate distant building in NASA headquarters in Florida in the 50’s. Taraji Henson, best known as the sassy matriarch Cookie Lyon in Empire, brings magnetism and strength to the main character, Katherine Johnson. Johnson is the math wiz, dumbfounding the rest of the all white male mathematician staff at the nascent NASA program, to the delight of Kevin Costner’s character, Al Harrison. Octavia Spencer is Dorothy Vaughn, the unrecognized supervisor of the department who cunningly ensures her staff always has the right skills when opportunities arise. Janelle Monae, well known recording artist, is Mary Jackson, an aspiring physicist. Care is taken by the filmmaker to show the obstacles placed in front of these women in the segregated South during the 50’s. Johnson runs miles daily just to visit the bathroom, yet she is the one who creates new math required in the great space race. Vaughn must out maneuver the politics of of the bureaucracy. To achieve her dreams, Jackson must overcome Jim Crow laws.

Director Theodore Melfi approached the racial and pro-feminist themes with nuance. This may be a way to ensure the movie is not dismissed offhand as some Black Lives Matter/Feminist propaganda. However, I would have appreciated more punch and less emphasis on the love lives of the ladies. I appreciate how important their husbands, children and families were; however, significant screen time was dedicated to the love stories versus their day to day hurdles. That being said, the cast of the film was delightful and charming; highlighting the love and support of the community and the fear and tensions in a state that is refusing to recognize the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling.


There’s a common saying; Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels. These women worked twice as hard to overcome. Their results made America is a greater place because they believed in the cause, the impact of their work and dreams to overcome the useless societal standards of the day. Hidden Figures reminds us of how far we have come, and also how far we have yet to go to truly value and recognize a women’s worth through education and equal opportunities. It’s a reminder to persevere, play the rules when you have to and break the rules when you need to.

— Audrika Gavins