I don’t like Madonna. I don’t like her image and her egotism, and I hoped that I would not like Evita so I could cynically say “see, I was right.” That didn’t happen. I liked Evita a lot, and ironically, it was for the same reasons I don’t like Madonna, that I liked Evita.
There is an interesting parallel between Madonna and Eva Peron. Both are very headstrong and ambitious, both operate within the system, and both use men’s sexual desires to their own advantage. No wonder Madonna said this was the part she was born to play.
Antonio Banderas plays Ché, our guide through the movie. Ché comments on the actions as they transpire, often directly to the camera. His is a distanced, objective, somewhat cynical observer. He sees though the glitz and glamour of Eva and sees her for what she is. My dislike for Madonna was given a voice right from the start in Ché’s wry cutting commentary.
Madonna’s performance of Eva was quite successful. Eva believably grows through the whole movie in age, power, and sophistication. By the end, Eva explains to Ché (and Madonna, to me) that you can’t argue with success. Even if Eva is manipulative and two-faced, she is popular, powerful, and fulfilled, which is no worse than being cynical but right. Eva (and Madonna) are justified in asking why they should be held to a higher standard than those in the system whose abuses are worse. Point taken.
The music in the movie was excellent. Like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Evita is more an opera than a musical. There were maybe four or five spoken lines in the whole movie; the rest was sung. Only one performance was substandard, that of Augustin the tango singer. His voice was obviously provided by someone other than the actor. It was a bit distracting, but his character left the screen early in the movie. Madonna, of course, sang very well, as did Banderas. Banderas took me by surprise a few times; he would be singing ably, then at an emotional point in the song he would belt out a line, more than ably, right on pitch. The effect was used extremely well by Alan Parker.
It is easy to overlook the talent that Parker brought to this movie because of the great performances and the interesting story. Parker should be credited for keeping the movie’s pace nice and brisk and for some well-executed thematic devices. For example, the movie opens with Eva’s death (presumably to show us the impact she was to have on her crowds of admirers). It becomes intercut with another, earlier, more humble funeral, that of her father, at which she is present. Eventually the story takes off from the earlier funeral.
So the music, the direction, the story, the acting, and the characters were good; and the movie addressed my prejudice against Madonna. Overall, I’d have to say that’s a great movie.