Director: Theodore Melfi.
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe. USA 2016. 127 mins.
Without three gifted mathematicians, America might not have put its first man into space in 1961. That they were also female and black in a country where racial segregation still had a sour normalcy only adds piquancy to the story.
Theodore Melfi’s biopic Hidden Figures tells the uplifting tale of how these women helped make history. Played with great, often wry gusto by Taraji P. Henson (The Karate Kid), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station) and pop star Janelle Monáe, the trio are plucked from numeric drudgery by a NASA systems boss (Kevin Costner) to help meet a timetable accelerated by presidential decree. As if things weren’t already challenging enough, the women also face the routine prejudice of their work colleagues.
Hidden Figures deftly avoids clichéd melodrama to celebrate amazing achievements in a society in the throes of change.