You may have heard about a little film recently that centers around what may be one of the more surprising subjects in history that has never been told. You have NASA, the iconic space program that advances almost everyday in the hopes of traveling beyond our atmosphere and exploring planets, stars, and galaxies far far away, but beyond the men in suits there are women making sure they hold down the fort the best they can. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner is unabashedly uplifting, warm, and overall empowering.
Some of you will scoff at the idea of a film depicting women, in this case black women, succeeding because you haven’t dropped your spears yet, but for the rest of us, there is a film that shows us that film-making in the realm of drama doesn’t always have to be depressing. Based on the astounding true story of three women who defied the odds with their intellect, perseverance, and the desire to better themselves and the American people. Leading the film is Henson as math genius who must figure out how to make it in a program dominated the white men, but contrary to popular belief, not all of them are so bad. Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer play Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, respectively, in ways only they can, with charisma, heart, and a genuine fire that you know burns through them both.
While the racially segregated 1960’s weren’t the prettiest of times, director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) doesn’t choose to give us that rugged look like we’ve seen in other movies of that, but rather a more lightly colorized depiction of what is very much an optimists look at the hardships these women of color faced at NASA, and beyond. There will be scenes that satisfy your squishiest of muscles and joints, as what happened to me, with certain scenes that confirm that Melfi is a man of happiness and romance without draining it of it’s honeymoon like bliss. It’s only fitting that the music makes you feel the same way. Thanks to super producer Pharrell – a Virginia native himself – produced the music, and the main theme for Katherine Johnson (Henson) which will be sure to give you a vibe that will make you want to groove in your sticky theater seat.
Even through the killer soundtrack – that also throws in some Ray Charles for good measure – you resist the charm these women use in order to cope with the realities of their struggles as not just women, but working mothers of color in a time when bathrooms and water fountains become the most unbearable and inconvenient delays in a time when they want to work on their assignments, only to be ignored through ignorance, and condescension from their white colleagues. There’s a great scene involving Octavia Spencer and her boys that will hopefully perk you up like it did me. No spoilers of course, but it does make you appreciate a certain inconvenience we all can obtain nowadays.
All in all, this is such a charming and inspiring film that is unapologetic for being sensitive and bathed in warmly conceived emotions while being, motivating, and lighthearted all at once. It’s a film that will make you wonder who and where else these “hidden figures” are in our histories and why we haven’t made films on them either. The team for this film brought a film that you can all watch without the stresses of something like 12 Years A Slave or give the overly realistic view of what life was really like for these brilliant women. It makes it’s points and entertains you with ease thanks to a snappy, but never preachy nor pretentious manor, thanks to former NASA employee and screenwriter Allison Schroeder. The box office hasn’t lied thus far, people want to see this film, and you should follow suit.