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


Rita Moreno is not above publicizing her own documentary.

(2021) Documentary (Roadside Attractions) Rita Moreno, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Morgan Freeman, George Chakiris, Whoopi Goldberg, Hector Elizondo, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Mitzi Gaynor, Norman Lear, Sonia Sotomayor, Frances Negron-Montaner, Gloria Estefan, Tony Taccone, Fernanda Gordon Fisher, John Ferguson, Jackie Speier, Tom Fontana, Terence McNally, Chita Rivera. Directed by Mariem Perez Riera

 

When most people think of Rita Moreno, the first thing that comes to mind is her Oscar-winning part as the sizzling, seductive Anita in West Side Story. That isn’t so surprising, but she has had a nearly 70 year career in entertainment, and is the first (and so far only) Latina actress to win the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards in their career. That’s an accomplishment that is exceedingly rare few actors can make the same claim.

Moreno grew up in poverty in Puerto Rico, but remembers her childhood as idyllic. That came to an end when her parents divorced and her mother moved her to New York City. She developed an affinity for dancing and dropped out of school at 16 to become the family’s sole breadwinner. She did get noticed, though and was eventually signed to a contract at MGM by Louis B. Mayer.

The documentary, at a snug 89 minutes, covers most of the highlights of her career; the any reinventions, such as her time on the seminal children’s PBS program The Electric Company and her dramatic role as a nun-prison psychologist in Oz and more recently her starring role in the reboot of One Day at a Time (sadly canceled) and up to her forthcoming appearance in Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story which she executive produced.

There are also some of the struggles she underwent; the typecasting as an ethnic actress, often requiring her to wear skin-darkening makeup to play Asian, Pacific Islander and Hispanic roles. There is also the misogyny, as when Columbia co-founder Harry Cohn told her point blank at a cocktail party that he wanted to have sex with her (in much cruder terms) which as a fairly sheltered teen from Puerto Rico was quite a shock.

Through much of the film, Moreno is seen watching the Christine Blasey Ford testimony at the Neil Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings. These seem to resonate with her in particular; she then talks about her own sexual assault at the hands of an agent. She then says that she still kept him on as her agent, as he was the only one willing to believe in her “so-called career” as few agents would represent anyone of Latin origin as they tended to be typecast in a narrow variety of roles.

Although much of this can be found in Moreno’s 2013 memoir, it might come as new information for those who haven’t read it – including myself. For instance, I’d forgotten that early in her career she’d appeared in both The King and I and Singing in the Rain (in one of her rare non-ethnic appearances). What is more telling is the effect her career has had on those of the Latin performers who followed her and speak about her with reverence, including her One Day at a Time co-star Machado and Broadway emperor Lin-Manuel Miranda. America Ferraro is also seen giving a heartfelt speech at an awards ceremony honoring Moreno. It is a touch hagiographic, but I can’t help but think that if anyone deserves that kind of hero-worship, it’s Moreno.

REASONS TO SEE: A squidge better than the average Hollywood biodoc. Moreno is an engaging storyteller.
REASONS TO AVOID: At times on the hagiographic side.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity, sexual content and a description of rape.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Moreno was the first actor of Puerto Rican descent to win an Oscar.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/20/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: 99% positive reviews; Metacritic: 79/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Olympia
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
It’s Not a Burden

New Releases for the Week of June 18, 2021


THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD

(Lionsgate) Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Grillo, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Richard E. Grant, Antonio Banderas. Directed by Patrick Hughes

Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Michael Bryce has a new client – not the hitman, but his even more volatile wife, the con artist Sonia Kincaid. However, the three quickly find out they are well over their heads in a global plot that could plunge Europe under the iron grip of a despot.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for some sexual content, pervasive language and strong bloody violence)

12 Mighty Orphans

(Sony Classics) Luke Wilson, Robert Duvall, Vinessa Shaw, Martin Sheen. A devoted high school football coach leads a team of twelve scrawny orphans to the state championship, inspiring a nation reeling from the Great Depression.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Sports Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, AMC Lake Square, Cinemark Orlando, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Regal Pavilion, Regal The Loop, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (some suggestive references, brief teen drinking, smoking, language and violence)

Gaia

(NEON) Monique Rockman, Carel Nel, Alex van Dyk, Anthony Oseyemi. An injured forest ranger is rescued by two off-the-grid survivalists. But what is at first a welcome intervention grows more sinister as their beliefs in the deity of the woods leads to a shocking confrontation.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Amstar Lake Mary, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, CMX Merritt Square
Rating: R (for nudity, language, bloody images, sexual content and some violence)

Limbo

(Focus) Sidse Babett Knudsen, Kenneth Collard, Amir El-Masry, Vikash Bhaj. A promising young musician from Syria who is forced to flee the civil war there finds himself separated from his family, stuck on a remote Scottish island while he awaits the outcome of his asylum hearing.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Cinematique Daytona Beach
Rating: R (for language)

Los Hermanos/The Brothers

(Patchwork) Aldo Lopez-Gavilán, Ilmar Lopez-Gavilán. Brothers Aldo, a pianist living in Havana, and Ilmar, a violinist living in New York City, are separated by more than miles. A geopolitical divide has separated the brothers for more than half a century. This poignant film tracks their parallel lives in music, their emotional reunion and their incredible first performances together.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Our Ladies

(Sony International) Tallulah Grieve, Eve Austin, Kate Dickie, Chris Fulton. A rural Catholic girl’[s school choir gets a chance to enter a national competition in Edinburgh in the 1990s but the girls are far more interested in having a good time than in winning the competition.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs
Rating: R (for teen drinking, brief graphic nudity, sexual content and language throughout)

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

(Roadside Attractions) Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Morgan Freeman. The acclaimed actress went from a life of poverty in Puerto Rico to becoming one of the few actors to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater, Regal The Loop
Rating: PG-13 (for suggestive material, some strong language and mature thematic content)

The Sparks Brothers

(Focus) Ron Mael, Russell Mael, Jane Wiedlin, Mike Myers. The Mael brothers have spent decades at the head of Sparks, a pop band with eccentric instincts. This Edgar Wright-directed documentary traces the group from their formative years in the Seventies through their most recent releases.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue, AMC Disney Springs, Regal Winter Park Village, Studio Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for language)

Sweet Thing

(Film Movement) Will Patton, Lana Rockwell, Nico Rockwell, Jabari Watkins. Two siblings try to cope with an alcoholic father and an uncaring mother and ultimately run away from home, creating a temporary life for themselves.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

Batman: The Long Halloween Part One (Tuesday)
The Birthday Cake
Clairevoyant
(Tuesday)
Demon Slayer: Mugen Train
(Tuesday)
Les Nótres
Life in a Year
(Tuesday)
Love Spreads
Luca
Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer
Siberia
Stalker
Take Back
Truman and Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

The Birthday Cake
Gaia
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
Luca
Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It
The Sparks Brothers