HIDDEN FIGURES (director/writer: Theodore Melfi; screenwriters: based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly/Allison Scheoeder; cinematographer: Mandy Walker; editor: Peter Teschner; music: Benjamin Wallfisch/Pharrell Williams/Hans Zimmer; cast: Taraji P. Henson (Katherine G. Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan), Jim Parsons (Paul Stafford), Janelle Monáe (Mary Jackson), Kirsten Dunst (Vivian Michael), Kevin Costner (Al Harrison), Glen Powell (John Glenn), Mahershala Ali (Jim Johnson); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Peter Chernin/Jenno Topping/Theodore Melfi/Donna Gigliotti/Pharrell Williams; 20th Century Fox; 2016)
“The worthy upbeat historical film on the early pioneers of NASA never fails to point out how courageous and saintly were its three black protagonists.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A justifiable feel-good biopic on the untold story of the African-American genius mathematician Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and her two black colleagues in the NASA space program, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). They worked together in 1961 in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and helped NASA in the space race with the Russians. It shows how all three minority women overcame prejudice to become important contributors to the space program. Katherine was assigned as a so-called “computer” to make mathematical calculations that aided the astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) on his “Friendship 7” launch, whereby he became the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit of the Earth. Kevin Costner plays the hard-working, strong-willed, dedicated director of the space program, who recognizes Katherine’s talents and paves the way for her to succeed on the job. Kirsten Dunstis the efficient but unsympathetic white supervisor of the black women, who is surprised that the black ladies are a success. Theodore Melfi (“St. Vincent”) directs in a non-critical hero-worshipping way from a serviceable screenplay he co-wrote with Allison Schroeder. It’s based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. The worthy upbeat historical film on the early pioneers of NASA never fails to point out how courageous and saintly were its three black protagonists and how back then racism was part of the normal fabric in Virginia, even inside NASA. By virtue of their abilities each lady forged ahead as pioneers who broke down racial and gender barriers at NASA and are viewed as inspirational figures for all Americans then and now.
REVIEWED ON 12/9/2016 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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