Review: 'Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It' celebrates a winner

She went for it alright, and this inspiring documentary shows the impact the 89-year-old activist and actor has had on the world.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Activist, trailblazer, EGOT winner, diva, firecracker, survivor: Rita Moreno wears many hats, and she wears them all well. 

"Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It" is a celebration of the 89-year-old treasure — she turns 90 later this year — who has done it all, seen it all and now has the documentary to prove it. 

Rita Moreno in "Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It."

Moreno — best known for her Oscar-winning turn as Anita in "West Side Story," but also notable for other stage and TV roles, and for her work outside of acting, raising awareness  on various social platforms — gets to tell her own story of coming to New York from Puerto Rico, becoming a dancer and slowly climbing Hollywood's ladder in the 1950s and 60s. 

She's joined by various co-stars and talking heads, including Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Norman Lear, Gloria Estefan and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is also a producer and who included Moreno in a montage of culturally significant Latina women in his musical "In the Heights."

Moreno is open about her romances (including with Marlon Brando), her experiences with racism and sexism both inside and outside the entertainment industry, her suicide attempt, her politics and more. She emerges as a figure of strength and resilience, old enough to be your grandmother but still youthful enough to be your cool aunt, telling you her extraordinary story over drinks at brunch.  

Director Mariem Pérez Riera never gets in the way of her subject and lets viewers feel Moreno's spirit, her vibrancy and her energy. Anyone can decide to go for it; Pérez Riera shows why Moreno has gone farther than most.


'Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It'


Rated PG-13: for mature thematic content, some strong language including a sexual reference, and suggestive material 

Running time: 90 minutes

In theaters