Based around the time when America was competing with Russia to get into space first, Hidden Figures are the three super-clever black ladies –Afro-American if you must – working at NASA. It turns out, no matter how much your country needs you to help with the space programme, you still had to put up with lower wages, lower level jobs and segregated offices and bathrooms.
The opening scene is highly entertaining. What we think is going to be a raving act of racism against talented ladies in NASA turns into something else. A bit like Moonlight, Hidden Figures goes far enough for us to understand what happens without being graphic. (Two of the actors from Hidden Figures are also in that although rather than caring drug dealers they play upstanding citizens serving their country).
Through these ladies we learn you also can’t put your name on a report if your grade is ‘computer’ although that probably is the same for everyone, no matter if you have done all the work.
That you can be competent supervisor but without the title or the pay that goes with the work.
You most certainly can’t apply to be an engineer although that may be for all women.
I can’t afford pearls on what a black women earns here!
Kevin Costner plays the big boss and contrary to how his secretary introduces him, he’s accommodating and encouraging once he notices the capabilities the impeccably dressed, well-mannered lady in the room. The ‘uniform’ for the growing number of ladies at NASA a knee length dress, court shoes and one string of pearls.
Predictably, her new colleagues think she dresses that well to be the janitor.
There is plenty of comedy. When Katherine is seconded to work on a project, she asks the only other female – the secretary – where the bathroom is. She unhelpfully answers ‘she wouldn’t know’. With no one else to ask, each time Katherine has to run across to the only place she knows, come rain or shine, taking all of her folders with her just to go to the loo.
Of course, I found myself seeking the bathroom myself by the end of this film!
The ladies are a breath of fresh air against a sea of white faces, white shirts and black ties. The white men not only have to watch a woman solve the problem that they couldn’t, but a black woman, who obviously gets paid less than them.
Similar to The Help (in which Octavia Spencer also stars and had the best lines) Hidden Figures is a Disneyfied version of the story, and that’s one that every person, no matter what age can watch. Yes it serves as a wonderful inspiration to young American ladies to understand their capability, but it’s a film for all of us to be reminded of that, even those of us who think we’ve achieved everything we set out to do.
What’s better than that?