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Review Roundup: RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT - What Did the Critics Think?


The film had its premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and is now in theaters.

Review Roundup: RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT - What Did the Critics Think?

"Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It," a documentary that made its premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, is now in theaters.

"Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It" chronicles Moreno's decades-long career, from growing up in poverty on a farm in Puerto Rico to becoming an EGOT winner.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Sarah Jae Leiber, BroadwayWorld: Fortunately, "Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It" gives great weight to the individual factors - not societal conditions - that make its subject so special. The remarkable thing about this film, and Ms. Moreno herself, is its never-failing optimism and goodness. While Moreno does not mince words about the ways Hollywood hurt her and disappointed her, she also never stops being delightful and generous.

Beatrice Loayza, The New York Times: This documentary credits her turn to comedy, television and stage acting for liberating her from her exotic sexpot persona. It's almost hard to believe that the radiant Moreno we see in the film - who at 89 continues to epitomize that ineffable and rare quality we call star power - was ever restrained. Though this contrast is precisely what makes her story so enthralling and vital.

Chris Willman, Variety: But the pride that infuses the movie - the admiration that comes from her costars, and the admiration of her Latinx acolytes and mentees, as well as her own self-belief - comes at just the right length. Not many potential subjects for docs of this sort really justify being put in a character arc that involves so many micro-rises and falls before such an extended and graceful plateau. Coming away from "Just a Girl," it's impossible not to be convinced that Moreno is the rare screen legend who found a way to stick the Hollywood landing.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Pérez Riera and co-editor Kevin Klauber shuffle the wealth of material into a breezy narrative of highs and lows, complemented by Kathryn Bostic's jazzy underscoring and appropriate song choices. In addition to Moreno's engaging interview, the doc frequently cuts back to her One Day at a Time dressing room on the Sony lot, venting her indignation while watching the Brett Kavanagh Supreme Court confirmation hearings on TV; and to stop-motion paper-doll animation representing that "needy little Rosita" she would eventually cast off as she reached a point in her life where she has to answer to no one.

Carlos Aguilar, The Wrap: To date, Moreno remains one of the very few Latino actors to have ever won an Academy Award (with one of the shortest acceptance speeches). So when a historian poses the question of how much greater the actress' career could have been had she not faced awful hurdles - a young woman in a sea of predatory sharks, and a Latina at that - we are forced to reckon with the reality of how many more diverse artists could have emerged had conditions been different. It's a reckoning that makes Moreno's ascent all the more worthy of admiration, and her triumph spawns the hope that when other girls decide to just go for it, they won't have to face similar barriers.

Allan Hunter, ScreenDaily: Moreno's considered, candid responses to Riera's probing are the backbone of a film that boasts a feast of archive footage, appealing animated sequences and a soundtrack featuring songs performed by Nina Simone, La Lupe and Moreno herself. Among the family members, academics, politicians and colleagues interviewed are George Chakiris, Morgan Freeman, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefan, Hector Elizondo and Whoopi Goldberg. Interviewees Norman Lear and Lin Manuel Miranda also serve as executive producers on the title.

G. Allen Johnson, Datebook: The film traces Moreno's life from poverty in Puerto Rico to poverty in New York, from Hollywood bit player ("Singin' in the Rain," "The King and I") to Oscar winner for "West Side Story," from a series regular on PBS' children's series "The Electric Company" to her resurgence in the now-canceled Latino sitcom reboot "One Day at a Time" and production of the Steven Spielberg remake - to be released Dec. 10 - of "West Side Story" in which she both acts and executive-produces.

Josh Kupecki, Austin Chronicle: The film, anchored by interviews with Moreno and her co-stars and contemporaries, positions Moreno as a trailblazer, a barrier-breaker, and a role model, but more interestingly, it ultimately tracks a journey of self discovery. At 89 years old, Moreno is at peace with who she is, and she has figured out that her drive for attention, for performing, for happiness were in fact nurturing her. It's a profound realization that can take a lifetime to learn, if it is perceived at all: that finding value in yourself is what makes you whole.

Michael O'Sullivan, The Washington Post: As film scholar Frances Negrón-Muntaner puts it, Moreno isn't defined by the obstacles she's overcome, but there is a nagging question left hanging and unanswered in her tantalizing life story: Who might the little girl born Rosita Moreno - a pint-size diva who dreamed of being famous - have become, if those obstacles hadn't been there?

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