“Hidden Figures” – The Inspiring Story of Three Brilliant Women Who Helped Launch the First Man into Space

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I loved “Hidden Figures” so much that I saw it twice, and I’d probably see it again. It is one of the most inspiring, touching films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also a film that reminds us about a time when mankind seemed to forget that we were all created equal. It’s 1961 when we first meet three incredible women, Kathleen G. Johnson (the fantastic Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (the always excellent Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monal) driving down a lonely road in Hampton, Virginia when their Chevy Impala breaks down.

Dorothy is in the middle of fixing it when a sheriff pulls up next to them in his cruiser. This being the segregated south, we all know what kind of sheriff this guy is…a good old boy. The tension is high as he gets out of his car. It’s obvious he’s about to give the ladies a hard time, until he find out that they work at NASA. He’s so impressed, he personally escorts them to the gates of Langley.

Kathleen, Dorothy and Mary are three of the many black women who worked at NASA in a segregated department known as Colored Computers. Yep, the women were called computers. Their job was to check the work of the white male engineers who performed the calculations for future space travel.

These women had their own ‘colored’ bathroom. and despite their brilliance, they were treated like second class employees.

Dorothy runs the department, and every morning her cold, tightly wound boss, Vivian Michael (Kirsten Dunst) hands her the daily assignments to give out to the ladies. When Dorothy inquires about the supervisor job she applied for, since she already does the work of a supervisor, Vivian instantly rebuffs her by telling her in an extremely condescending way, not to count on it and to be happy she has a job.

One day, mathematical genius Kathleen is promoted to a job that includes working with the Space Task Group, where the head, Col. Al Harrison (the excellent Kevin Costner)  is too busy to notice the shabby treatment Kathleen is given.

One of the most powerful scenes in the film has to do with Kathleen running over a mile twice every day so she can use the colored bathroom located in a different building.

Mary Jackson dreams of being an engineer but that would require her taking courses at a segregated high school. Another memorable scene is when she goes before the white judge to get his permission.

“Hidden Figures” is filled with one powerful scene after another. You leave the theatre realizing that we might never have made it into space if it wasn’t for Kathleen Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

The movie, directed by Theodore Melfi (“St. Vincent”), who also co-wrote it with Allison Schroeder, is based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name.

I gave “Hidden Figures” which opens in theaters, Friday January 6th, five bagels out of five. Don’t miss it.

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Joan Alperin

About Joan Alperin

Joan was born in Brooklyn and spent many years working as an actress in New York City. Even though she traveled extensively, Joan couldn't imagine living anywhere else.. Well one day, she met someone at a party who regaled her with stories about living in L. A. specifically Topanga Canyon. A few weeks later she found herself on an airplane bound for Los Angeles. Joan immediately fell in love with the town and has been living here for the last twenty years and yes, she even made it to Topanga Canyon, where she now resides, surrounded by nature, deer, owls and all kinds of extraordinary alien creatures.. Joan continued acting, but for the last several years (besides reviewing plays and film) she has been writing screenplays. Joan was married to a filmmaker who created the cult classic films, (way before she knew him) Faces of Death. As a result of his huge following, they created a funny movie review show entitled Two Jews on Film, where Joan and her husband, John would review movies and rate them with bagels You can see their reviews by going to youtube.com/twojewsonfilm. Although it's now only one Jew - Joan is occasionally joined by her beautiful Pekingnese and Japanese Chin.
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