We went to the movies today and I wanted to share our family movie review of Hidden Figures. The movie is based on the true story of three ridiculously smart African-American women working for NASA in the 1960s.
In short: It's a great film. Please go see it.
Take your kids. Take some tissues, too. (Fear not, it isn't a cry fest, but the older gentlemen sitting next to us was wiping his tears, both happy and sad, as regularly as I was.)
One of my favorite quotes is by Jim Valvano, who said, "If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day." I did all that in Hidden Figures, because it's a heck of a movie.
Hidden Figures focuses on three women who were human computers at NASA. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), who was essential to John Glenn's Friendship 7 mission and more; Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), who mastered computer language early on and eventually—meaning ever so belatedly—became NASA’s first black supervisor; and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who goes to great length to become an engineer. All three actresses do a wonderful job.
I was eager to see it with my daughter for a variety of reasons. It's a chance to learn more about the Civil Rights movement. I wanted us both to see the role incredibly intelligent women of color had in the space program, people who never got any attention or credit from the public at the time. Hidden Figures also appeared to be a great way to show women in math and engineering. Girl power and STEM? Yes, please.
Turns out that there is even more going on in the film than that, including leadership, female friendship, the Cold War, and adapting to a changing world and job market. The three of us also really appreciated how a single parent remarrying was handled in such a beautiful way.
Imagine my surprise, then, when my daughter said one of her favorites parts of the movie were the funny scenes. She appreciated the humor.
At first I was concerned by that answer. She's not wrong. There were several points where I laughed. The humor was a bit unexpected (I don't think of elliptical and parabolic orbits as material that lends itself to chuckles), but appreciated. Hidden Figures offers a glimpse into what daily life was like during the Jim Crow era and does what it can to flush out these characters, who go work, to church, celebrate birthdays, carpool, and yes, laugh together.
The moments of humor don't mean that the audience doesn't feel outrage at segregation, discrimination, sexism and
It does feel like each woman could have a movie made just about her. I wanted to know to more about them and their relationships and motivations, but it works.
My daughter also noted that it was a big departure from the dystopian genre that often does well with teens. She says that she didn't think a movie about history was going to be exciting, but this movie was far better than she was anticipating. She thought it would be boring and just history and math, but she said it was anything but.
Speaking of the history, I really enjoyed the way that there was real historical footage nicely integrated into the film, including footage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For kids, it makes history seem real, which it was, and fascinating, which it is. This movie is a vivid illustration that there are amazing people, heartbreaking struggles, and inspiring stories aren't in their history books. But that doesn't mean that these aren't people and events that they don't need to know. Quite the contrary, in fact.
At one point when the theater burst into applause, it struck me that watching history was a communal event, and celebrating advances and cheering good people felt so very good. I'm so hopeful that viewers of all ages put that enthusiasm to work outside the theater, too.
Common Sense Media recommends Hidden Figures for kids ages 10 and older - you can read their suggestions and review here - although Mary Tyler Mom took her eight-year-old with no problems, as she writes here.
My family gives it all our thumbs up.
If you've seen it, share your thoughts on the movie in the comments, please!
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