Thursday, March 2, 2017

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures: 4 Stars

Being a woman in the work force, I do get the joys of what it is to be very occasionally seen as a second class citizen. It's very occasional and to be blunt, bloody annoying when it happens. Mind you, as a Caucasian in a very inclusive workplace, sexism and racism, though present in a very, very minor way, is not something I have to think about daily. I still get 'man-splained' to every now and then - and it's very annoying and completely diminished the man who things that "your pretty little head can't take in these big facts", but you roll your eyes, make a note of the jerk and see if you can circumvent him, and get on with things.

Hidden Figures portrays some phenomenal women doing an amazing job under some of the worst of circumstances and is based on real life events.

In the late 1960's the state of Virginia in the United States was segregated. African Americans were very much second class citizens, although thankfully, the Civil Rights movement was well underway to ensuring changes were made.

Hidden from view were the women who worked at NASA in computing and computational roles. Katherine Johnson, one of the Maths legends of our time, Dorothy Vaughn, a computer scientist, and Mary Jackson, a woman with the mind of an engineer all work in important, yet overlooked roles on the space program.

This movie follows their journey towards equality, not just in the workplace, but in their worlds at large.

The movie is inspirational.What really inspires is Katherine, Mary and Dorothy's refusal to give up, to work within the bounds provided and then get on with things.

What really irritates the modern viewer is the sensibilities of the white folk as they continue to denigrate these amazing women.

What effected me most of all is in working for the Space Program, doing specialised work, they were still discriminated against for the colour of their skin. It left me shaking my head, and feeling very thankful that I haven't had to work in such an environment.  

Themes of racism, civil rights, equal opportunity abound in this very watchable, very interesting film. What is most inspiring is how these women overcome these obstacles with grace. I found myself cheering when Katherine (Taraji P Henson) forcefully explained to her boss (Kevin Costner) that she had to walk half a mile to go to the coloured women's bathroom - and gave the rest of the team a serve seeing she was doing the work of ten men.  When Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) sadly looked at her boss and explained, "You might not believe you're racist, but the truth is different." was a watershed moment. When Mary (Janelle Monae) hit a nerve with the judge hearing her case to attend classes at a segregated school, you had to give her a fist pump.

Hidden Figures is an enjoyable, understandable look at coloured women in a white man's word. Though lacking the emotional punch of movies such as "Moonlight" and "Manchester on the Sea", its well worth a look, if, for anything, to see how far the world has thankfully come in the last fifty years.

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