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Guilty Treasures: 1996’s Evita

If I had a choice, I would round up all musicals, especially mainstream musicals, and pop them in the guilty pleasures pot. I’d leave out the truly outstanding ones, the cult ones, so people can marvel on how exactly you can make a musical without being so ludicrously over the top. You may not agree with me because nearly everyone I know loves musicals, I do too. But when it comes to mainstream movies good acting is abandoned for singing and if you are going to do a movie of that nature, then at least include some stellar performances (see: Moulin Rouge!) Otherwise it just becomes dance numbers and songs, looped together by a strained plot.

The point being is that most musicals are, or should be, guilty pleasures. In particular is this movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita.

Evita stars Madonna and Antonio Banderas and depicts, in flashy song form, the life of Argentinean First Lady Eva Peron and her rise to fame. Starting off life as an illegitimate child who is denied attending her own father’s funeral, Eva is spurred on by being outcast by his middle class family. Eva is determined to succeed and she will leave a string of lovers behind her wake. This is until she runs into Juan Peron, the future Argentinean president….

Why Is It Bad?

There is always going to a problem with translating a much loved stage show to the big film and director Alan Parker runs into many issues. In order to film in Argentina, the movie has to cut a lot of risqué material from the show, much to the show’s dismay as it loses some of those darker elements that work so well on stage. And for some reason, Madonna is sandwiched into every age of Eva, jarring when it comes to her younger self. This process could have worked better opting for a younger actress and aging her.

Also, on the note of Madonna. I have never been a massive fan of hers anyway but Madonna here is testing. Trying hard as Eva, Madonna somehow makes her sympathetic when the whole point of the story is to show how much of an actress and how cut throat Eva Peron was in succeeding. Madonna is given songs that don’t work for the character, extra ones written out of context such as “You Must Love Me” that ruin genuinely subtle moments.

It’s all a bit to grandiose and it means the film suffers.

Why Is It Good?

evitaAntonion Banderas, for one, is an excellent Che. Playing a role of Eva’s conscience and indeed, the voice of reason, Banderas is cutting and judgemental. He delivers a fine performance and succeeds in acting bitter within his vocal and dancing performances. Astonishing to watch, Banderas pulls this movie round.

There are some moments of pure emotion here too, whether it be frightening or enjoyable. The crowd scenes are hauntingly powerful. As crowds chant names just outside the consulate house, the people become this terrifying amalgamation of blind following and it is chilling to watch. This added to the gripping war and protest scenes, Evita does grip you into to its flowery vocal bosom.

And as much as I hate to say this, apart from making Eva a sympathetic character instead of the cutthroat bitch she is supposed to be, Madonna is actually good. Although that makes her music career even more frustrating, Madonna can sing and sometimes, in moments, can act.

Evita is flashy. It is big and bold, grabbing you by the wrist and singing in your face. It is hard to ignore, certainly I’ve had “Goodnight and Thank You!” in my head for weeks now. And although it does abandon some of the realistic or shockingly dark moments for colours and prettiness, Evita is enjoyable. It is a movie you can watch with your family and get past this irritability to enjoy the Webber/Rice music.

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