The biographical documentary continues to find a strong foothold in Hollywood. Many celebrities realize the importance of telling their own story and crafting their own myths. The Last Dance, The Kid Stays in the Picture, and De Palma all found success thanks to their subject’s involvement. Many might expect a similar style to Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It from director Mariem Pérez Riera. The resulting film is not your run-of-the-mill discussion of one’s career. Instead, Moreno’s honesty and political activism pave the way for honest revelations about her life.
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It examines the life and career of Moreno just after her 87th birthday. She’s on set to film One Day at a Time and the hearings for Brett Kavanagh’s Supreme Court seat are ongoing. As Dr. Christine Blasey Ford takes the stand, Moreno recounts her career in Hollywood. Moreno oscillates between her Hollywood career and her personal life. She goes on to discuss her marriage, her relationship with Marlon Brando, and her activism.
Moreno makes for a reliable narrator due to her incredible honesty. She relays stories on her upbringing and struggles in the industry with grace, always finding a laugh in the process. Yet there’s no denying that she suffered tragedies. She details sexual assault and abuse at the hands of people she trusted. She laments her lack of strength, despite all evidence to the contrary. As she discusses her perceived failings and shortcomings, other celebrities describe her ineffable impact on their careers.
Pérez Riera takes great care to explain the hardships that Moreno faced from within Hollywood. Rather than framing her career solely as a groundbreaking figure, the director leans into the racism Moreno that stalled out her career. It is not a question of if Moreno would have made it. Instead, Perez Riera asks how grand of a career Moreno might have had if not for misogyny and racism. Whoopi Goldberg and Moreno each comment on their revolutionary EGOT status, but without the joy we recognize today. Rather than pursuing it as a goal, they simply wanted to work. As women of color, they were not given the same opportunities as the other women in their field.
The combination of these two elements, Moreno’s honest and Pérez Riera’s argument, make for a powerful combination. This makes Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided to Go for It more than just a celebration of an idol. Instead, it lets us into the thoughts, humor, and humanity of the actress. The blunt honesty from Moreno should inspire many to pursue their own activism. Her experiences are universal and continue to shed light on issues affecting us today. Any fan of Moreno will love this documentary, and newcomers will find themselves engrossed by her incredible story.