Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hidden Figures. A Review.

Went to see Hidden Figures last night, a rare Wednesday date night. Cinebistro was in fine form. The shrimp mac and cheese was exquisite. The movie was terrific. On the way out I was able to grab not one, not two, but three of those delicious chocolate-mint gumdrop things. A killer night!

Hidden Figures, as you know, is about three African-American women who worked at NASA in Langley during the early 60's when this nation was trying to catch up with the Soviet Union's space program. This was before the Civil Rights battles, where Jim Crow segregation was the law of the land. These three ladies possessed brilliant mathematical minds, but toiled away in relative obscurity in a colored section of the complex, until fate intervened and brought all three to prominence. Neccesity being the mother of invention, the brightest and best minds had to be employed, regardless of skin color, so in the merit based environment of NASA, the cream eventually rose to the top. These three women had to overcome not only their race but their gender as well, making them all the more remarkable.

Watching what life was like in 1961 Virginia was difficult. The most excruciating part of the movie was the part where Katherine Johnson's character, played beautifully by Taraji Henson, was forced to run across the Langley campus half a mile twice a day, arms full of her work, through all kinds of go to the bathroom, since that's where the closest colored bathroom was. She did so every day, suffering this absurdity in stoic silence until finally, when confronted with her slacking forty minute breaks by her boss, launches into an impassioned defense of herself which brought tears to my eyes. When the boss, played surprisingly well by Kevin Costner, silently walks over to the coffee table and rips the colored sticker someone had placed on a small coffee pot provided especially for Ms. Johnson, you could have heard a pin drop in the universe.

The part of the movie which moved me the most though was the sense of national purpose woven throughout the country by the space program. Everyone, was invested in its success, it seemed. Although segregated, groups of whites and blacks gathered outside of store fronts watching the blast off of Friendship Seven on televisions displayed in the windows. Living rooms in black and white homes were packed with people praying and holding their breath as rockets either lifted off successfully, or crashed to the ground in a terrifying fireball. It's hard to imagine anything today having the power to unite us as a people like that. It was both inspiring and sad to ponder just how divided we have become.

It was also inspiring to see that Hollywood still has it within itself to produce uplifting and heroic films. Bravo!