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More than just a girl

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Review 2021-Rita Moreno June 18

The phrase on a tee-shirt inspired actress Rita Moreno to wear similar attire to accept a lifetime achievement award. The words? “Just a girl who decided to go for it.” But as anyone who watches the new documentary called Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” soon realizes, the actress is far more than “just a girl.”

After all, few 89-year-olds get acting and producing credits in a highly anticipated feature film from Steven Spielberg, but that’s just one of the amazing places where Moreno find herself today. Her acting jobs include a recent stint on the One Day at a Time television series reboot in a career spanning more than 70 years.

With a plethora of material to address, Director Mariem Pérez Riera covers Moreno’s career and life highlights in a documentary that celebrates the actress for both her talents and her views on life. Rape, abortion, and a suicide attempt play in the mix of a career that includes the rare achievement of an EGOT, the catchphrase for winning all the key entertainment awards. That means Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.

Fellow performers like Lin-Manuel Miranda plus family members add to insights about hardships and achievements, but Moreno herself provides the details with enthusiastic participation. She acknowledges occasional downsides to her behavior, and director Riera includes criticism of Moreno’s iconic and Oscar winning role in the movie West Side Story. But part of Moreno’s charm comes from taking a hard look at her life and talking frankly about it.

Moreno admits to her need for being the center of attention, a spot she readily takes—most of her awards come for supporting work where she easily stole scenes from bigger billed stars. It happened here in Northern Nevada when she opened for Bill Cosby. During one of the times I saw her in person, Cosby sat in his chair at the front of the stage, while Moreno came out behind him with a broom and started cleaning the area, her pantomimed antics getting more laughs than the comedian’s routine. Not many performers would dare to jump in like that, but as the documentary says, Rita Moreno decided to go for it.

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