By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
From her humble beginnings, Puerto Rican native Rita Moreno seemed destined for stardom. Her vibrant personality and charisma made her a natural for show business. However, it was her abilities to sing, dance, and act that guaranteed her future success in America. This was never an easy road for her, though. Racial prejudice, sexism, and misogyny would further challenge the strong, ambitious, and determined performer to extremes she had never anticipated. Director Mariem Pérez Riera tells Rita Moreno’s life story so far in a wonderful and incredible documentary which both celebrates the accomplishments of the Latinx trailblazer, but also offers a revealing and highly critical look at the problems in the entertainment business that continue to affect Latin women today.
The film delivers a very personal glimpse into the life and career of Moreno, as told in her own words. Moreno recounts her struggles by her and her family from the time they left Puerto Rico for what they hoped would be better and more successful life in the US. Though Rita was a natural when it came to singing, dancing and acting, she would face many challenges and problems in a Hollywood system that often abused all kinds of women and definitely misunderstood and misinterpreted cultures of various backgrounds. Despite these problems and the pain and suffering she would endure, Moreno still managed to achieve some success in Hollywood, television, and the theater. And to this day, she has earned the respect and adoration of all Latinx artists who have followed in similar footsteps.
Riera’s documentary is an essential film that resonates, given the recent revelations uncovered by the “Me Too” movement. In addition to the racial prejudice and cultural insensitivity experienced during the earlier days of her career, Rita was also victimized by the male powers-that-be in a Hollywood system that used and abused women as sexual objects. Moreno pulls no punches when it comes to sharing some of her more darker secrets and this shows her courage as a strong Puerto Rican artist who has never been afraid to challenge conventions.
The documentary is both an inspiring and empowering piece for the Latin community, particularly women, but it is also an intimate look at a real person who, despite having a larger-than-life personality, is also a very vulnerable person who desires love, respect, and joy just like everyone else. Rita Moreno – Just a Girl Who Decide To Go For It is an amazing celebration of the many facets of a talented artist and person who can reflect upon her life with much pride. The film opens in theater on June 18 and is a film I must highly recommend for fans of classic cinema and Latinx artists struggling to make it in a challenging world.