Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It
Directed by Mariem Perez Riera, this documentary is both widely entertaining and historically important.
Let me start by saying that I can’t imagine a better documentary being released this year. At the age of 89 Ms. Moreno is still at the top of her game. With no apologies to anyone, she still follows her motto, “Go for it”.
She and her seamstress mother immigrated to New York from Puerto Rico when she was 5 years old. She dropped out of school as a teenager to pursue both a dancing and movie career.
Quickly landing a movie contract after meeting Louis B. Mayer, the head of M.G.M., she moved to Hollywood with high hopes. This was quickly dashed when she was cast as stereotypical ethnic minorities. Even when she won an Oscar for her unforgettable performance in West Side Story (1961), she waited another 7 years for another meaningful role.
Importantly, Ms. Moreno’s multiple interviews in this movie are captivating. While she relives her splendid performances in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The King and I (1956), The Electric Company (1971-77) and One Day at a Time (2017-2020), she pulls no punches as she describes her disastrous 7 year relationship with Marlon Brando and her attempted suicide a year before West Side Story.
Ms. Moreno gives hope and inspiration to immigrants and women fighting Hollywood’s sexist history. She inspired Justina Machado, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefan, Karen Olivo and Lin-Manuel Miranda, all of whom provide meaningful commentaries in this fine film.
Married over 40 years until her husband died in 2010, she is close to her daughter and grandkids. The winner of a Tony, Grammy and several Emmys along with her Oscar, she came a long way from a Puerto Rican childhood where she wore no shoes.
Keep this movie on your to do list. Like my friend Dr. Kleinman who watched it with me, you will not be disappointed.