EVITA (1996) 

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Antonio Banderas
Jonathan Pryce
Jimmy Nail
Victoria Sus
Julian Littman
Olga Merediz
Laura Pallas
Julia Worsley

Alan Parker




Time: 134 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: History/Drama/Musical

Won Academy Award for Best Song. Nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

Movies made out of hit Broadway shows bring upon themselves a ton of extra scrutiny and criticism right from the start. "Will it be as good as the play?", "Will the film makers capture the essence of the piece?", blah, blah, blah. This happens with popular novels as well, but since there's no one burned into the public consciousness as the lead characters, the producers have a little more leeway. In the case of EVITA, Alan Parker was behind the eight ball the minute he decided to cast Madonna as Eva Peron. Not being a big fan or detractor of Ms. M, it really didn't matter to me. I think Madonna has an OK voice and I have a lot of respect for her as a business person. However, she is not a great actress or versatile singer, causing many people to immediately pass on this film.

Now I've seen her in a few other films and the only ones where she's any good are the ones in which she plays characters close to her own personality. Some would argue that Eva Peron wasn't a big stretch for her. Maybe not, but the character is so watered down in this version who could tell. Everyone was clammering at Oscar time that Madonna should have been nominated, but I have to say I left Evita with the same knowledge of Eva Peron I went in with – very little. Having never seen the play, I don't know how accurate an adaptation this is. However, I'd venture that the play is somewhat more illuminating about the life of this extraordinary woman, otherwise it wouldn't be such a success. That being said, I don't understand what happened on the way to the screen.

The Eva Peron showcased here is a shallow, loose, power-hungry woman who through some sort of miracle becomes a major force on the political scene. How a simple village girl with a long line of lovers manages to get an older politician to marry her is a mystery never solved. Her sudden role as a world figure is equally mystifying. Clearly campaigning for her husband while he was in jail (for reasons never made clear) and running Argentina with him made her a popular national role model. However, her motivations are never made clear. She seems to end up with the life she always wanted, except for the lack of love from the one man who really mattered, her husband. Certainly, money and power had something to do with her actions, but I was desperate to connect to this larger-than-life lady. Her life left an enduring legacy in Argentina, and yet I feel I learned very little about why her actions were so important to this nation and the world at large.

"Put me down for a lifetime of success. Give me credit, I'll find ways of paying."

More than some other musical, EVITA relies on the songs to explain the character and story, which is a problem since they don't do a very thorough job. There is just no meat on the bones. The songs are wonderful and moving and the production design is beautiful, however, you can't have a good movie without a strong central character. It may by a musical, but all Hollywood musicals have at least some straight dialogue. This would have helped a great deal to fill out the history of this time period and Evita's mark on it. Plus it would have showed that Madonna can act, instead of just singing and parading across the screen in hundreds of different outfits. The story isn't told from Evita's point of view, which doesn't help matters. The film plays like one long music video, visually interesting but emotionally empty.

Antonio Banderas actually does a fabulous turn as Chi, the films' representation of the "people". He's a surprisingly good singer who gives Madonna a powerful presence to bounce off of. He's so charismatic I wished the film had more moments with him. Jonathan Pryce, a wonderful actor, just isn't given much to do here. His role as Evita's unloving, politician husband is a waste of his talent. If you're a fan of the stage version, I would not recommend seeing this film. I'm sure Andrew Lloyd Weber is highly displeased. If you've never seen the play and want to see a well-produced musical with pretty people to look at, this may be the diversion for you. I have to say I enjoyed the look of this film and the music is truly mesmerizing. Madonna does an impressive job with what she's given, though it's no award-winning role. If you can't stand her, this movie won't change your mind. EVITA is a film that reaches for the stars, but never makes it out of the park.

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