• Wendy Shreve


Get ready and start your engines, Rita Moreno defies gravity. She may be eight-seven and proud of it in the documentary, Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It (2021), yet her energy could fuel a race car.

Her story begins with a direct, half shot of the star looking at the audience to introduce the movie. Moreno doesn't apologize for what she will say; she celebrates her brutal honesty.

From her innocent days in Puerto Rico, her abrupt departure with her mother (who leaves Rita's brother behind with his father) and her years struggling to break stereotypes in the heydays of the Hollywood studio system, the actress struggles to command respect. She tries to emulate a young, sexy Elizabeth Taylor in appearance and headshots, piquing agents and studio head's interest to cast her in small, often racist parts.

Some of the men use these opportunities to physically molest her. The assaults, including a rape by an agent, and psychological mistreatment by her love interests, such as Marlon Brando, lead to almost fatal consequences. However, she rebounds to win the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) a feat only accomplished by four performers for acting.

Director Mariem Pérez Riera has recruited several guest appearances to add further gravitas along with levity to the story: Moreno's daughter (Fernanda Luisa Gordon), Whoopi Goldberg, Gloria Estefan, Eva Longoria, Morgan Freeman and Lin-Manuel Miranda, among others, all attest to Rita Moreno's inner strength, willingness to fight for her beliefs, including taking on the mantles of a trailblazer for Latinas; a zealous civil rights activist.

A tighter approach to the narration, i.e. less repetition and better editing, would make the film more appealing. Sour grapes from Moreno about the movie West Side Story (1961), though she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, paves the way for, promotes the inclusive version that Moreno also appears in, directed by Steven Spielberg, that opens in December of this year.

Moreno's humor, ability to self-analyze and admit her weaknesses ingratiates her to anyone who has had similar challenges. And her zest for life is infectious. You may not agree with all of her personal and political comments. But if you have a chance to watch Ms. Moreno relate her tale, you'll be in for a helluva a ride. Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It could be just the inspiration any young woman needs to break the glass ceiling.

Unrated. Feisty expletives punctuate much of the actress's dialogue, and for good reason. A re-telling of a rape plus the aftermath of a botched medical procedure may be too much for some viewers.

#PIFF (Provincetown International Film Festival) selection. Opens in theaters tomorrow, June 18, 2021. MASKS ARE REQUIRED AT ALL INDOOR SCREENINGS.

Earlier reviews are available on

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