It was 1961 and Segregation was still the norm. Three African American women, math prodigy Katherine Goble and her friends Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, bucked the system and got jobs in a research division for NASA. Goble eventually got assigned to compute rocket flight trajectories for the Space Task Group, where she worked hard to gain the confidence of her boss Al Harrison. Meanwhile, Jackson pursued an engineering degree and Vaughan figured out the complex IBM computer systems.
Taraji P. Henson leads the cast as Katherine Goble, a mathematician who proved that sheer talent can still shine through serious adversity with dedication and hard work. Ms. Goble had to work under oppressive conditions and attitudes, including having to run 20 minutes to a colored bathroom all the way on the other side of the complex just to use the toilet. Henson gave such a powerful and empowering performance here. I was surprised was snubbed for Best Actress consideration at the Oscars.
Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (for "The Help") did get Oscar notice again this year. Her turn as Dorothy Vaughan, a responsible secretary taking on supervisorial duties, had sass and vigor, but for me, this is a performance typical of her. Janelle Monáe played Mary Jackson as a pretty and perky woman who aspired to become an engineer despite it being a white male dominated career option.
It was good to see Kevin Costner in the role of Space Task Group director Al Harrison (a fictional composite character, not an actual person) who did not allow race to get in the way of recognizing ability and effort. His scene with the "colored bathroom" sign packed a big statement. Jim Parsons basically played head engineer Paul Stafford as his signature snooty Big Bang Theory character Sheldon Cooper.
A very mature-looking Kirsten Dunst played the icy cold office supervisor Vivian Mitchell. Glen Powell played a very charismatic and young-looking pioneer astronaut John Glenn. Current Best Supporting Actor favorite Mahershala Ali (for "Moonlight") is also here as Katherine's suitor, mild-mannered soldier Jim Johnson.
"Hidden Figures" is currently the biggest box-office hit among the nine Best Picture nominees. It is a more traditionally-executed mainstream feature that is easy for audiences from all walks of life to understand and appreciate. The story being told is very interesting (I enjoy watching well-told historical films) and inspirational (race-wise and gender-wise). The story-telling style is conventional but engaging. The ensemble award it received from SAG is a surprise but well-deserved. But saying that it will parlay that big SAG win to a Best Picture award over "La La Land" may be too much to wish for. 8/10.