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Parents' Guide to

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

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Riveting, brutally honest docu about a living legend.

Movie PG-13 2021 90 minutes
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This is a candid, powerful profile of an extraordinary and pioneering performer whose influence and relevance has lasted more than 70 years. Neither Pérez Riera nor Moreno shy away from revealing the ugly truths of the storied actor's past: her tumultuous affair with the narcissistic Brando, her appalling experiences with handsy executives who thought of her as an exotic plaything, her rape by a trusted friend and agent, the secret challenges of what seemed like a perfect marriage, her internalized shame at having to play stereotypical women of color or ethnic characters with accents. It's all there in this insightful, revelatory, and riveting documentary. Pérez Riera impresses with the caliber of the interviewees she lined up, starting with Miranda, who considers Moreno a role model and friend. On-screen daughter Machado shares how delightful a diva Moreno was on set ("in the best way possible," she says). And Chakiris adds behind-the-scenes commentary about what it was like for him and Moreno to play the Oscar-winning roles of Bernardo and Anita together.

Despite all of the celebrity interviewees, it's Moreno herself who shines the brightest, who entertains, and who impacts audiences by telling her truth: remembering her parents and discussing the pivotal moments of her life both on and off the screen. Based on her enthusiasm (and dance moves), it's hard to believe that she's an octogenarian (she has just turned 87 in the documentary, which begins with her and her daughter getting ready for Moreno's annual themed/costumed birthday party). The year that the documentary covers is when Moreno was back in the news for her pitch-perfect portrayal of the glamorous, hilarious Abuela in the now canceled reboot of One Day at a Time, and the actress muses wisely that fame is ephemeral and unpredictable, so you can't take it so seriously that you lose track of yourself. One of the parts of the documentary that has the most impact is the discussion of racism and sexism in Hollywood. While the world has come a long way, it's dispiriting to be reminded that, many decades later, there's still so much discrimination in both general society and, specifically, the entertainment industry. This is a must-see for Moreno's fans and anyone interested in 20th-century history of Hollywood and the performing arts.

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