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JC REVIEWS 'HIDDEN FIGURES'

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Sometimes a movie comes along that can change you, making you truly think and reflect on your own behavior and ignorance. For me, Hidden Figures is one of those movies as it powerfully uncovers a true story that will have you laughing and crying all at the same time.

Set in 1961 when segregation was in full swing and separate bathrooms and water coolers were the norm, Hidden Figures shines a light on the lives of three incredible African American women working in the dungeons of NASA as mathematicians. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) are seen chasing their professional goals. While they are completely capable and over qualified for their goals, they are put down and degraded by NASA in unimaginable ways as a result of their sex and race.

The spotlight of the film is on the life of Katherine Johnson, a childhood genius whose skills seem wasted in a mundane role as a “computer” for NASA. That is, until she is was assigned to Al Harrison’s (Kevin Costner) Space Task Group, working feverishly to get the first American into space after the Russians pipped them at the post.

As the only African American permitted into the office she is delighted to realize that her new boss Al doesn’t seem to notice or see color. Al only wants the best person on the job, and sadly she seems to be the only one. Watching the challenges and downright discrimination that Katherine and her friends face is a real eye opener. I know it’s not like we don’t already know about segregated bathrooms and drinking fountains but this story explores this in a more intimate way, telling a story that is so despicable that you have to stand up and take notice.

In a time of trilogies and comic book franchises, such critical stories from history are so important, ensuring we never forget how far we have come and, to make sure that we realize how far we still have to go. This film absolutely drives this home without for a second seeming like its otherwise preaching.

You will absolutely be bought to tears watching the struggles of these ladies while also on the edge of your seat wanting to cheer as you see them overcome the challenges in front of them. They make history, a history I was ignorant to and unaware of. So for that, I am grateful this film has educated me.

The acting in this film is truly flawless, it’s hard to call out an individual performances. However, Taraji P. Hensen gives the performance of her career and is just breathtaking. Kevin Costner also takes a departure from his somewhat cliché roles and shines in this film as Al Harrison. Of course, the likability of Kevin is in part due to Al’s character and how powerful his actions were in changing history inside and outside of NASA.

I am normally a little cynical of Oscar nominations as they tend to err on the side of the creative and not watchable, but I think with its three nominations this film has been underrated and deserves far more. In my opinion, Hidden Figures is a definite contender for Movie of the Year and Best Actress. If that’s all too deep for you and you like to sit back and watch a casual film with no thinking necessary, this film can do that too. But, I challenge you to not feel inspired when you leave. It’s a must see!

 

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