When there is a snowless snow day and you’re going a little stir crazy in your house, a family movie outing always tops my list of fun activities. So when we realized school was cancelled, I asked my kids if they would like to see Hidden Figures. My 11 year old daughter had seen the previews and was all in. My teen son, who has loved all things space since as long as I can remember, hesitated. While he loved the idea of a film about NASA, he was worried that a movie about three women would inevitably involve romance and “girly things.” I assured him that just because the movie had three female leads, it did not have to be all about hearts and flowers so off we went. While I had to later admit that there was a small side plot about a blooming romance and a couple of kisses here and there, this is thankfully not a love story.
Hidden Figures tells the true story of three talented African-American women who worked on NASA’s first missions to space. The story mainly focuses on Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), a gifted math whiz whose skills propel her to work on calculating John Glenn’s launch into orbit. Katherine endures many struggles as the only black female working with all white men during the stressful time of the space race against Russia in the 1960’s segregated south. From having to walk long distances to find a colored restroom, to not being able to drink from the same pot of coffee, Katherine does not let anything stop her as she works tirelessly to put the first man into space. Helping her along the way is Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer in another terrific performance) who works as a supervisor to the black women at NASA even though she is repeatedly refused that title. Dorothy wisely realizes that her job as a “human computer” will become obsolete once the newly purchased IBM computers are up and running so she teaches herself how to program the computers to ensure job security. We also meet Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) who has the talents of an engineer but is unable to be promoted as she lacks the course credits that are only offered at an all white school.
This movie is a terrific introduction to teaching kids the hardships that the African-American community has faced in our country. It’s one thing to read about these shameful parts of our history, but seeing it actually happen to these characters so blatantly on screen really resonated with my kids and facilitated a great conversation afterward. These three ladies show great courage and perseverance as they work to succeed. They don’t just complain about their situation—they improve it. That is definitely a great lesson for kids to hear!
So whether you want to enlighten your kids, or you just want to enjoy seeing some women kicking butt and taking names, Hidden Figures is a great opportunity to do so. Enjoy!
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Run Time: 2 hours 7 minutes