Directed by Theodore Melfi
In “Hidden Figures”, emergent American director Theodore Melfi is so motivated to compensate the three forgotten African-American female mathematicians who played major roles in NASA missions, that he almost mismanages.
Melfi had shown directorial potentialities in 2014 when he released “St. Vincent”, a comedy-drama starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, and Naomi Watts. Still, the film ended up taking a vulnerable sentimental path in its development.
Although based on a true story, “Hidden Figures”, which clearly suffers from comparable issues, renounces to the realism of the facts to become a polished crowd-pleaser.
The director teamed up with Allison Schroeder to write the script, which was based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly.
Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe star as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, respectively, three brains working for the NASA’s segregated West Area Computing Unit in 1961, Virginia.
Facing harsh times, these three unappreciated employees gradually earn the respect of chiefs and engineers by proving their outstanding capabilities. Katherine, unbeatable with numbers and complex calculations, becomes the right hand of Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), director of the Space Task Group, who's under pressure to send an American astronaut into space. However, she has to overcome the hostility of Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons), a well-positioned engineer with limited vision and extended ego. Not to mention the half-mile walk to go to a colored bathroom!
Dorothy is promoted to supervisor of the Programming Department, after learning Fortran and fix an IBM 7090. She had to struggle before starting being treated as an equal by her superior, Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst).
Mary was the luckiest of the three. The mission specialist Karl Zielinski (Olek Krupa) immediately praised her brilliant work, encouraging her to pursue an engineering degree.
Not every scene works here, yet the unquestionable importance of these women gets the desirable visibility and is not easily forgotten.
An agreeable surprise was to see Kevin Costner returning to first-class acting.
“Hidden Figures” is watchable and only partially satisfying.