Hidden Figures PG
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Based on a true story, Hidden Figures follows three women of colour seeking recognition from NASA during the space race of the late fifties/early sixties. Single mother and maths genius Katherine Gobel (Henson) is hired by Al Harrison (Costner) to be his 'human computer' in the Space Task Group, and charged with making sense of the theoretical mathematics to get an American in space before the Russians. Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer) readies her employees to work with the nascent IBM computers while Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) dreams of being the first female space engineer…
Whitewashed from the history books, Hidden Figures is a belated attempt to give credit where it's due. While Katherine's story dominates, the three women have their own individual battles: Katherine struggles to be respected by racist/sexist project supervisor Paul (Jim Parsons), who doesn't think women, let alone a woman of colour, should be allowed in the building; Dorothy’s complaints to boss Vivian (Dunst) that she's doing the work of a supervisor while not getting paid or recognised as such falls on deaf ears; while Mary has to lobby the court to be granted special permission to enter a segregated school to acquire the qualifications needed to become an engineer.
All deal with their own incidents of racism and sexism. Thinking she's a cleaner, Dorothy is given a bin to empty on her first day, is forced to race across campus to use the coloured bathroom, and finds she has her own pot of coffee labelled 'coloured'. Meanwhile Dunst makes the pointed remark that the ambitious Dorothy should be happy she has a job at all. The change in the air comes in the form of Costner's button down white collar stuffy type; he has one terrific scene when, frustrated that Katherine's bathroom breaks are taking up for forty minutes due to her dash across campus, he takes a crowbar to the 'coloured' sign. It's a real punch-the-air moment.
Eminently watchable throughout, Hidden Figures however doesn't have it all its own way. The film peaks at the halfway mark: once the team get Alan Shepherd into space the goal seems to be achieved and thereafter the story succumbs to repetition, as further missions are planned. The shoehorned romance between Katherine and strapping Col. Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali) feels like a distraction, needlessly buffing out the running time to over two hours, while more time is given to Mary's militant husband (Aldis Hodge) who seems unsure whether to support his wife's ambitions or keep her feet on the ground, as he sees it, to avoid disappointment.
Review by Gavin Burke | 14:40 | Wednesday 8th February 2017 | Movie Review