Wonderful to watch but unfulfilling
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 04/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the interesting sidelights to this movie is the fact that Oliver Stone wrote part of the screenplay. While watching it I kept wondering what part? Stone, whose edgy, over the top indictments of oppression, corruption and especially military stupidity, wouldn't seem to be one to celebrate the elevation of Eva Peron to something close to sainthood, which is what this movie does. Maybe all his work ended up on the cutting room floor. Or maybe it was obscured by Andrew Lloyd Webber's music. Certainly we do not see the decamisados (Peron's version of his friend Mussolini's Blackshirts) torturing anyone, and although the "disappeared" are mentioned in passing, there is no retrospective that allows us to see just how widespread and horrific were the murders committed by the Peronists.Anyway, Madonna, who certainly fits the part like a glove, stars as Evita, and she gives the performance of her life. Yet somehow it is unconvincing, or I should say, somehow the film doesn't really get to the essence of the woman who rose from poverty to the pinnacle of power in Argentina, a woman extravagantly loved by the common people of Argentina even while she was a party to the fascist oppression. I don't think this is Madonna's fault. Her voice is good, not great, of course, but her dramatic skills are very much in evidence, skills that have always been underrated, although I'm not sure why. If you watch her in this and in Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) you can see that she has a range easily exceeding that of most actresses. I think that ironically it is the very quality of common origin and common appeal that the Argentines so loved in Evita that the critics hold against Madonna.Antonio Banderas plays Che, who narrates and attempts to objectify the events while symbolizing both Evita's alter-ego and the man who would really be her proper mate were it not for her rapacious political appetite. Che's character and his dramatic role (from the play by Tim Rice) is perhaps the most important artistic achievement of the musical after Webber's beautiful and inspiring music. Banderas is winning and enormously vivid in the part, and he sings well and expressively.Jonathan Pryce plays Peron with more dignity and humanity than history might allow. His sensitivity as an actor combined with a modest demeanor seemed to me so unrealistic as to be almost a miscasting. Yet he is perhaps as compelling as anyone on the screen and he certainly looked the part. Interesting is Jimmy Nail as the cabaret singer Magaldi. He combines sleazy good looks with a kind of vulnerable persona that seems exactly right.Well, what can be said about the music except that it is one of Webber's great triumphs and so very typical of his work. It is beautiful, stirring, moving, enchanting and memorable. Who can forget the haunting, plaintive refrain of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" or the gorgeous simplicity of "You Must Love Me"? While Madonna's voice would not fill up a concert hall or take her by itself to the Broadway stage, she does an outstanding job with Webber's songs. A natural performer (Madonna's key talent), her expressive interpretations range from the ordinary to the transfixing. I very much enjoyed her efforts and predict that critics in the future will be kinder to her than today's critics.The ending seemed too drawn out and then when the screen faded to black and the credits began to run it seemed almost abrupt and without resolution. I also did not like the way that Madonna (38 at the time) seemed no younger in the earlier scenes with her hair dyed pitch black. I think director Alan Parker should have given us more of an illusion of youth, perhaps spared her some of the closeups and fuzzed out the lines under her eyes. Strange how the golden blonde hair and exquisitely applied makeup in the remainder of the film made her look younger. All directors should know what Madonna learned many years ago: blonde hair usually makes a woman look younger because those with naturally light-colored hair are their blondest as children. Like big eyes and relatively big heads, blonde hair is a signal of youth that arrests our eyes.Despite the flaws this is an engrossing cinematic experience, and for Madonna fans, Banderas fans, and in particular fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber, it is a film not to be missed."
EXCELLENT Adaption of the broadway show - have an open mind.
bilahn | Minneapolis | 01/28/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Boy do people miss the point on this movie. You can't present a movie like a broadway show. Everytime this has been attemped, historically, the results are bad, most adaptions of famous shows are only OK at best, some are awful. The medium is totally different, the demands are different, the singing is different, the acting style is different. Yes, the shows usually are "better", in a sense, that's how it was originally written, as a stage play. You have got to really change things to make a successful movie. So how good an ADAPTION is this? Very good indeed. The story was changed to very effectively fit the medium. Madonna stretched herself unbelievably to do this role, and I think she did very well. You may quite validly prefer the stage version of Evita (I like both), but its almost like apples and oranges. As good as Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin were, they would, if they played it the same way anyway, come off mannered and absurd in a movie context. All the conventions of the stage would be laughable. (unless it was simply, of course, an actual filmed stage production). On the other hand, Madonna and Banderas are not nearly strong and polished enough for a stage. Most of the changes (a few I don't understand), make a lot of sense, when you consider how a movie has to flow. As for this movie not being deep or historical, its a musical for Pete's sake, not "Saving Private Ryan." I don't know enough about Eva Peron to really say, but I don't see how you could present a real historical drama in a musical context. I think the problem is people don't like or understand opera, which this essentially is. Most of the great operas have ludicrous story lines! Also if you are going to go in knowing you "hate" musicals, "hate" Madonna, then fine, this is not to your taste. Banderas is not a polished singer, but his rough edged singing is very appealing and effective in this context. The cinematography, costumes are outstanding, and serve the story well. Only as the dying Evita, do I find Madonna not very believable. I think Evita is thrilling, its one of my favorite movies of recent years.I love the show Evita, and I love this too, but in a very different way."
Robert D. Harmon | Mill Valley, CA | 04/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Worth noting that Evita is wall-to-wall music with virtually no spoken lines: not an opera so much as an extended music video, so the pop-music motifs need not be an anachronism.
I'm not a fan of Madonna, I find Andrew Lloyd Webber's music a bit obvious .. and yet -- and yet. Here everything seems to come together. It's a visually gorgeous film, the added songs (The Lady's Got Potential, You Must Love Me) are strong enhancements. The Che character's change from Che Guevara in the stage version to an Argentine Everyman here (desk clerk, bartender, cabinet minister, union activist) is an improvement over the stage musical and Antonio Banderas is a smoldering presence who carries the movie. Jimmy Nail is perfect as the oily tango singer; Jonathan Pryce capable in an equally slick role. The montage songs are splendid, like Goodnight and Thank You, that bucket-brigade sequence of Eva's lovers that she uses (and the film uses) to get her from the street to the Casa Rosada, or like A New Argentina, in which Eva takes Juan from jail to the presidency. The faux-English country house lawn where Eva faces down upper-class disdain (Peron's Latest Flame, The Actress Hasn't Learned the Lines You Like to Hear) is another brilliant staging. It all rings true, visually.
I've had others tell me the lyrics seemed shallow. "Don't cry for me, Argentina, and don't forget to get milk and bread at the store ... " Well, yes. That's the point. She didn't say much more than that. Banality often suffices in public life; politics are shtick in a media age; actors can leverage elections. The lady couldn't act but she could, as others have said, seduce a nation. She won't be the last actor to do so.
Recommend owning the DVD for the cinematic values at the very least. It's a dark vision of public affairs but the times probably affirm it. And it was the best role of Eva's lifetime. And Madonna's."