‘Hidden Figures’ trio has the right stuff

If you think your job’s bad, imagine being the poor soul who’s in charge of marketing the Commonwealth of Virginia these days.

Thanksgiving weekend brought the awards-season contender “Loving,” which chronicled the real-life plight of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga), who in 1958 were rousted out of bed in the middle of the night, thrown in jail and banned from Virginia for 25 years for having violated “God’s law” when the interracial couple had the gall to get married.

Now comes another awards contender, “Hidden Figures”, which tells the true story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three African-American women who were vital to the Apollo space missions, and some of the indignities they suffered because their employer, Langley Memorial Research Lab, was in Hampton, Virginia.

As the movie opens, Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Jackson (singer Janelle Monae), all of whom serve as human computers for the NASA precursor the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, are on the side of the road, their car having broken down on their way to work. When a white cop approaches them, they brace for the worst. By the end of the encounter, though, when he realizes they’re late for work — work that involves helping to beat the Russians in getting a man into space — he’s giving them a police escort.

 

But not everything in the inspiring, crowd-pleasing “Hidden Figures” is that rosy for the trio who work in the “colored computers” room.

Jackson has the mind of an engineer, but she can’t apply to be one because she hasn’t taken a course that’s only offered at an all-white high school.

Johnson, the lone employee of any race who can handle analytic geometry, is promoted to the Space Task Group. But since she’s the first black woman they’ve ever let in that building, there isn’t a bathroom for her, so she has to run a half mile to the other end of the campus whenever the need arises. And when she pours herself a cup of coffee, she’s met with harsh stares from her co-workers until someone buys a cheap “colored” coffee pot.

And Vaughan not only is denied the title and benefits of supervisor despite doing the work of one, she’s kicked out of the local library for straying from the colored section because the book she needed — on FORTRAN, the then-cutting-edge programming language — was in the whites-only section.

While racial injustices are an important factor in “Hidden Figures,” director Theodore Melfi (“St. Vincent”) and his co-writer, Allison Schroeder (“Mean Girls 2”), who adapted the book by Margot Lee Shetterley, mostly keep things light and uplifting. Vaughan shields her children from an anti-segregation protest, and a TV briefly shows news footage of a Freedom Riders bus bombing, but that’s as serious as things get.

As for the movie’s “villains,” there’s the token white devil (Kirsten Dunst), who throws as many obstacles as she can at the women, and the lead engineer (Jim Parsons), who seems more upset at Johnson’s being a woman than her being African-American. But they’re both pretty harmless. “Hidden Figures” may be the most entertaining civil rights movie I’ve ever seen.

As vital as Jackson’s and Vaughan’s contributions were, “Hidden Figures” mostly focuses on Johnson, as she helps Space Task Group Leader Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) develop “math that doesn’t yet exist” in order to bring John Glenn (Glen Powell, Fox’s “Scream Queens”) into, and then out of, orbit.

Johnson’s personal life also gets the most attention, as the widowed mother of three young girls is set up by her friend and colleague Jackson with a military man (Monae’s “Moonlight” co-star Mahershala Ali).

Henson carries the bulk of the movie, and does it with a restrained dignity. Monae gets the flashiest role and, between this and “Moonlight,” is proving to be a powerful screen presence. And Octavia Spencer is Octavia Spencer, and Octavia Spencer is good at pretty much everything.

But while their characters certainly existed, you can’t help but feel as though a few — maybe more than a few — liberties were taken with their stories, which feel somewhat Disney-fied.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. “Hidden Figures” wisely leaves the serious racism to other movies in favor of being the feel-good story of three friends who ultimately prove that they, too, have the right stuff.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Get a sneak peak of Palace Station's newest renovations
Station Casinos spokesperson Lori Nelson gives a first look at what Palace Station's $192 million renovation will bring. Some areas will begin opening to the public next week according to Nelson. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
New Marilyn Musical Brings Screen Icons Life To Strip
Paris Las Vegas hosts musical bio featuring new, old tunes. (Carol Cling Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
The "13 Reasons Why" mustang cruises down the Las Vegas Strip (Courtesy Netflix)
4 fun and fascinating museums in Las Vegas
U2 in Vegas through the years
U2 in Vegas through the years
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Black Tap In Las Vegas Makes This Instagram-ready Golden Knights Shake (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre Premieres Until December
‘Until December’ debuts at ‘Ballet & Broadway’ season finale (Carol Cling Las Vegas
Celebrate The Golden Knights With Knights-inpired Latte Art (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single Ramsey, who shot to fame after a viral video of him yodeling at an Illinois Walmart surfaced, just debuted “Famous.” “If I'm gonna be famous for somethin'/I wanna be famous for lovin' you/If I'm gonna be known around the world/I wanna because of you, girl” Mason Ramsey, “Famous” It’s been quite the rush to stardom for the 11-year-old, who appeared on The Ellen Show and performed at Coachella earlier this month. “I’d been to Nashville a few times before, but never thought something like this would happen. It’s a dream to sign with Atlantic and Big Loud.” Mason Ramsey “I loved recording ‘Famous’ and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala. (Janna Karel Las Vegas review-Journal)
"Hamilton" Fans Line Up Overnight At Smith Center To Get Tickets
"Hamilton" fans line up overnight at Smith Center to get tickets. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 concerts to see in Las Vegas this week
You can visit the speakeasy in The Mob Museum's basement... if you know the password
6 new foods hitting movie theaters in 2018
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Car Show celebrates 21st year
The Stray Cats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, Elvira and Mitch Polzak make appearances the 21st Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend car show at the Orleans hotel and casino on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
This "Alice in Wonderland" cocktail changes colors and flavors while you sip
Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like