What is there left to say about this incredible documentary brought to us by Mariem Pérez Riera? It has everything: awesome celebrity cameos, Hollywood history, the Latinx experience in entertainment and America, and of course, the incomparable Rita Moreno herself narrating the highs and lows of her life.
A still from Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It by Mariem Pérez Riera, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Like many people in their 20s, I was unfamiliar with the life behind the icon that is Rita Moreno. It was illuminating to be able to match history to a real person – we all know that Hollywood history is checkered (to put it lightly), but it feels more real and immediate when we can put a face to the history we read about in textbooks.
Beyond the (very cool) history lesson, at the core of this documentary is an honest look at what it means to find yourself through the hardships of life. There is an excellent animation throughout the documentary of Rita as a paper doll that emphasizes this theme beautifully. As a woman of color, she has had to bend herself to fit whatever opportunities she was allowed to have for so long in her career. It is so gratifying to watch her get to the point where she seizes control of her own life. We get to watch her be in a state of contentment, surrounded by family and friends.
In order to avoid spoilers and the joy of discovery, I shall leave the summary at that. This documentary gets 4.5 stars out of 5, as everything was so well-paced and wonderfully stitched together.