Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sundance: Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It

"She's an original and can't being that every minute of her life." — Norman Lear

Actress, singer, dancer, speaker, activist. Rita Moreno can do it all. Not only is she a natural performer but she lives for the spotlight. For someone who has such energy and passion for what she does, it's natural that her career as an entertainer has lasted as long as it has. Moreno battled sexual harassment, racism and toxic relationships and continued to thrive, broadening her horizons to work in every aspect of the entertainment industry. In doing so it is fitting that Moreno would become the first Latinx performer to earn the label of EGOT (winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). In paving her own way she helped forge a path for Latinx performers to come.

Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It is a celebratory documentary that offers a polished look at Moreno's life and career. Talking heads include George Chakiris, Norman Lear, Justina Machado, Lin Manuel Miranda, Hector Elizondo, Mitzi Gaynor, Morgan Freeman, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefan, Terrence McNally, Moreno's daughter, manager, among others. There are also interviews with scholars who offer perspectives of how Moreno's story fits into the history of Latinx performers. Front and center is Rita Moreno herself who shares her trials and tribulations as a Puerto Rican woman coming up in an industry that didn't quite know what to do with her. We learn about what she calls her "dusky maiden roles", her incredible rise to fame, her work in Singin in the Rain (1954) and West Side Story (1960), her torrid romantic relationship with Marlon Brando, her activism and her constant evolution as an artist. Along with interviews there are paper doll animations, scenes from her 86th birthday part and plenty of archival footage. The documentary paints a portrait of a woman who loves life and bursts with joy but also suffers from self-loathing. As a biographical documentary it's quite ordinary. It does allow its subject to shine which many will appreciate. Perhaps the most eye-opening moments for me were when Moreno divulged about her experience with sexual harassment and how that mirrored her role in West Side Story and her troubled marriage.

Highly recommended for fans of Rita Moreno and for Latinx viewers who want to learn more about one of our most important entertainment icons.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It premiered at the virtual 2021 Sundance Film Festival as part of their US Documentary competition.

There is no trailer for the documentary so here is an introduction by the director.

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