Rita Moreno shines in documentary ‘Just a Girl Who Decides to Go for It’

Moreno is in a select group of EGOT winners – people who have earned an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. Now 89 years old, she is introduced to a party celebrating her 87th birthday in the film, offering a quick demonstration of just how much of a force of nature she is. (She is also outspoken, got into controversy On “In the Heights” while appearing on Stephen Colbert’s program.)
For his achievements—including an Academy Award for “West Side Story” and a role in its upcoming remake from Steven Spielberg—producers Norman Lear, who featured Moreno in their reboot “once a day,” Says, “I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever met in this business who has lived more of the American dream.”

Yet as director Miriam Perez Rira’s crisp film makes clear, for the little girl who moved from Puerto Rico to New York with her mother as a child, fulfilling that dream was thrown at her. All the obstacles that had to be overcome had to be overcome, and the resentment that went with it had to be endured. Being an actress of color — even one who deliberately tried to look like Elizabeth Taylor when she auditioned as a teenager — during those years.

Moreno met studio mogul Louis B. Meyer at the age of 16, which impressed him enough to get him a studio contract. But those years came with “being treated like a sex object,” as she recalls, including being sent on “pretend dates” with actors by the studio’s publicity department and joining an assortment of “original girl” roles. which inspired them. An all-purpose accent perfect.

“I wanted to close the parts, but that was all that was offered,” Moreno says, noting that its owners’ message was “loud and clear: Shut up and be sexy.”

Being sexy was meant to be solemnly proposed to by Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn (running away from a party to avoid her) and, she says, being raped by her agent—a story she tells of the Supreme Court. Justice shares watching Brett Kavanaugh’s coverage confirmation hearing In 2018, making scathing remarks on TV.

Unlike Rita Hayworth, who hid her cultural identity, Moreno turned it into an estate with “West Side Story,” though her acclaimed role in that film didn’t open the floodgates as one might have expected. The lack of meaningful parts forced him to reinvent himself, from his Tony-winning stage role in “The Ritz” to TV work on the children’s series “The Electric Company”, whose album landed him in serious prison. Earned a Grammy for the play. Oz.”

Off screen, Moreno engaged in activism that included the civil rights movement and endured a long and toxic romance with Marlon Brando. Clips of her role opposite Brando in the 1969 film “The Night of the Follow Day” take on a different hue, in which she is heard discussing their dysfunctional relationship and the emotional scars it creates.

Produced by, among others, Lear and “Hamilton” Lin-Manuel Miranda“Just a Girl Who Decides to Go for It” chronicles the ups and downs of Moreno’s life, while a clever cast of talking heads including academics, “West Side Story” co-stars George Chakiris and peers like Karen Olivo Featuring the lineup, who played the role of Anita on Broadway. Those conversations reflect on the battles that are still being fought – underlined by “In the Heights”. colorism debate – As well as the extent to which future generations are indebted to Moreno’s struggles and victories.

The net effect is a tribute to all that Moreno achieved over the course of a 70-year career, tempered by an equally bittersweet asterisk: how high this “girl” would have flown, given her talent, faced those formidable headwinds. without doing

“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decides to Go for It” premieres in theaters on June 18.

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