by Joan Alperin
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I loved 'Hidden Figures' so much that I saw it twice, and I'll probably see it again. It is one of the most inspiring, touching films I've seen in a long time. It's also a film that reminds us there are times when mankind seems to forget that we were all created equal.
It's 1961 when we first meet three incredible women, Kathleen G. Johson (the fantastic Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monal) driving down a lone road in Hampton, Virginia when their Chevy Impala breaks down.
Dorothy is in the middle of fixing it, when a sheriff pulls up next to them in his cruiser. Being the segregated south, we all know what kind of guy this is, a "good ol' white boy." The tension is high as he gets out of his car. It's obvious he's about to give the ladies a hard time, until he finds out that they work at NASA. He's so impressed, that he escorts them personally to the gates of Langley.
Kathleen, Dorothy, and Mary are three of the many black women who worked at NASA in a segregated department known as Colored Computers. Yep, the woman were called Computer simply because they computed. They checked the work of the white male engineers who performed the calculations for future space travel.
These women even had to use segregated bathrooms, and despite their brilliance they were treated like second class employees.
Dorothy runs the department and every morning her cold, tightly wound boss, Vivian Michael (Kirsten Dunst) hands her the daily assignments to give out to the ladies. When Dorothy inquiries about the supervisor job she applied for, since she already does the work of a supervisor, Vivian instantly rebuffs her by telling her in an extremely condescending way not to count on it and to be happy she has a job.
One day, the mathematical genius, Kathleen is promoted to a job that includes working with the Space Task Group, where the head, Col. Al Harrison (the excellent Kevin Costner) is too busy to notice the shabby treatment Kathleen is given.
One of the most powerful scenes in the film has to do with Kathleen running over a mile twice a day so she can use the colored bathroom located in a different building.
Mary Jackson dreams of being an engineer but that would require her taking courses at a segregated high school. Another memorable scene is when she goes before the judge to get his permission.
'Hidden Figures' is filled with one powerful scene after another. You leave the theatre realizing that we might never have made it into space if it wasn't for Kathleen Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.
The movie, directed by Theodore Melfi (St.Vincent) who co-wrote it with Allison Schroeder, is based on Margot Lee Shetterly's book of the same name. "Hidden Figures" opens Friday, January 6th and I give it five bagels out of five. Don't miss it.