Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It
Directed by: Mariem Pérez Riera
Featuring: Rita Moreno, Eva Longoria, Norman Lear, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Perfectly timed for Pride month, Mariem Pérez Riera’s “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” hits theaters with just the right amount of pizzaz and a little bit of pomp.
Moreno, whose career has spanned some 70 years, has had a recent resurgence. I should probably turn in my gay card because I knew of Moreno but hadn’t really seen anything featuring her.
Yes, that includes Robert Wise’s “West Side Story,” which Steven Spielberg is wrapping up a remake for Christmas this year. And, guess what? Rita’s in it. Yes, she is!
Oh, wait. Yes, Ben. Talk about the documentary!
“Ria Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” is a beautiful look at someone who came from nothing with a dream of making it big. Even from a young age, when her father sent her mother and her away from Puerto Rico for a better life, her determination is palpable.
The struggle to find the bare necessities was real. Not only did they have nothing but the clothes on their backs, but they also came over during the Depression, right into midtown Manhattan.
Ms. Moreno, who serves as the narrator of her own life (why shouldn’t she, right?), carefully depicts the disparate parts of the five boroughs and the prevalent racism. Rita made her way into an audition for Louis B. Mayer, who was in town on business, and within a short time after coming to the United States, Ms. Moreno was headed for Tinseltown.
The documentary treads the fine line of acknowledging the racism against spelling it outright; Riera takes a measured approach to not eliminating people from watching the documentary.
Even as these efforts are undertaken, it makes Rita even more human. Something that caught my attention was how she lives her life: she drives herself, takes care of her costuming and cooking. Sure, she has assistants, but she depicts herself as a self-sufficient Hollywood-type who’s made their career out of acting.
There are so many other moments, genuine moments that really capture the essence of who Rita is.
Most importantly is her constant and natural ability to be the center of attention, but you’re never made to feel guilty if she isn’t the first person in the room you greet. There’s a humility and a humbleness about Ms. Moreno that I hadn’t expected but truly enjoyed.
In what is sure to be the ticket to getting my gay card back, she’s one of only 16 EGOT performers, EGOT winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. She is in esteemed company too, with four women winning all four awards.
Then there’s more brutal honesty, especially related to her marriage to Leonard Gordon, that the documentary touches on. The family photos shared, the public events they attended together, they were happy on the surface, but underneath, it was not a match made in heaven.
“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” takes its name from an unlikely source, but it is exceptionally appropriate for the type of person Ms. Moreno continues to be: gifted, talented, and most importantly, independent. Now in theaters, the documentary, which premiered alongside “The Sparks Brothers” at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is a winner.