A True Tale of NASA & Civil Rights

DATELINE:  Hidden Figures

NASAMonae, Henson, & Spencer Cut a Rug

When you cross two stories based on true events of the early 1960s, you have the NASA Mercury mission running head long into the Civil Rights movement.

Hidden Figures may be highly anticipated for telling a story few people may have ever heard about. NASA featured three black women, all highly intelligent and poorly utilized, in the nascient days of the space program. The movie tells their story of patience, goodwill, and triumph.

This may not be a feel-good movie, but it is superior entertainment. How these three women who are brilliant mathematicians could put up with the slights, the prejudice, and the petty treatment of so-called educated people at NASA may shock modern audiences.

Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, are bonded together in adversity, relegated to the women’s computer pool. They were literal computers, people who added up figures by hand, waiting for a chance to shine with their genius.

Leading the bigotry at NASA are a couple of surprising actors, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons, both who usually play highly sympathetic roles. Not here. Their supervisor is Kevin Costner, so you know where courage and heroism may emerge.

The women work with the original seven Mercury astronauts—and Henson’s character makes a deep impression on John Glenn.

The film will end happily—because we know our history. The journey of development and adversity will give greater appreciation to the struggles of women in the days before any kind of liberation. It is also an actors’ showcase with delightful performances all around.

Those who know Henson from her TV work in Empire will be surprised at her range here. Those who know her from Person of Interest will be happy she has found a superior film in which to perform.