Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The unstoppable Rita Moreno


     Fortunately for us and for director Mariem Perez Riera, Rita Moreno enjoys being in the spotlight. She's not one of those stars who feigns shyness when it comes to talking about her career or her personal life. 
    The documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, begins with Moreno's 87th birthday party before proceeding to tell the story of a Puerto Rican woman subjected to stereotyping early in her career when she played many complaint "native" girls. 
    But Moreno went on to win an Oscar for Westside Story, as well as Grammy, Emmy, and Tony honors. I don't know what it felt like for her, but viewed in retrospect, Moreno seems to have been unstoppable.
    I won't reprise Moreno's entire career, but Riera's documentary reminded me of how many bases Moreno has touched in a life that has included dancing, singing, drama, and nearly every other show business endeavor. 
    The movie's title comes from a T-shirt that Moreno wore to the Television Critics Association event at which she received a career achievement award in 2020. It aptly sums up the spirit of a woman who understood how to play the Hollywood game and still managed to turn herself into a ground-breaking winner.
    To say that Moreno has range would be to understate the case about an actress who has remained current with work in HBO's Oz and Netflix's One Day at a Timea show inspired by the 1975 sitcom. 
    Now 89, Moreno has had her share of personal heartbreak. She was romantically involved with Marlon Brando, a relationship that she says contributed to an attempted suicide. She also offers a frank appraisal of her marriage to Leonard Gordon, who served as her manager for a time.
    If you don't like candor, you probably don't want to hang out with Moreno. At one point, Riera films Moreno in her dressing room on the set of One Day at a Time. Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearing plays on a nearby TV. Moreno freely lets us know what she's thinking. 
    That's true of just about every moment of this engaging and well-made documentary, which includes interviews with Morgan Freeman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefanand Hector Elizondo.  
    Make no mistake, though, Moreno's the star of this show. She and we wouldn't have it any other way.

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