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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Evita

Starring: Madonna, Antonio Banderas
Director: Alan Parker
Rated: PG
RunTime: 134 Minutes
Release Date: December 1996
Genres: Drama, Music

*Also starring: Jonathan Pryce, Jimmy Nail

Review by Andrew Hicks
2 stars out of 4

I've always liked Madonna's music, although we all know her movie performances are, for the most part, lackluster. That's why it was good news to find out her performance in EVITA is 98% singing. Now that I've finally seen it, though, I realize that's also the bad news. Everything in EVITA is sung, which makes it hard for most viewers to retain interest after the first hour. Even the most musical musicals consist of at least 50% dialogue, which makes EVITA some kind of genetic strand of hyper-musical.

EVITA tells the story of Eva Peron, one of Argentina's most beloved historical figures and one of the longest running contemporary Broadway musicals. A lot of the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice songs are catchy, yeah, but (as Roger Ebert pointed out) it's because you end up hearing most of them five or six times through the course of the movie. Around the fourth reprise of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," I was about ready to burst into tortured tears of repetition.

Madonna, of course, plays Eva from the age of 15 or so, which is completely unconvincing. You'd have to be pretty stressed out to have crow's feet in high school. The teenage Evita convinces a visiting singer she's sleeping with (which in Madonna's case is completely convincing at any age) to take her back to Buenos Aires with him. He does, but their association ends there. Eva makes it in the big city because she has that certain Madonna-esque quality, her stylish antics accounting more for her success than her voice or acting abilities. Art imitates life, you know.

Evita becomes semi-famous with her radio program, but much more famous when she joins forces with Juan Peron (Jonathan Pryce), an authoritarian army officer who becomes leader of the country thanks to Evita's endless campaigning. The peasants love her because they sense she came from among them to make something of herself, although she never actually accomplishes much on their behalf aside from tossing money out a train window while she sings a gleeful song. Antonio Banderas, as some kind of singing narrator / collective peasant conscience, is always around to question her motives through cynical song, which doesn't lend the film any dramatic credibility.

What's good about EVITA is the occasional gleeful song. Three highlights are Madonna singing "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You" to Pryce, the one toward the beginning where she's trying to persuade her singer / lover to bring her along, and "Rainbow High," a showtune version of "Material Girl." And of course there's "You Must Love Me," the painful ballad that comes during Eva's dying days. Evita died at age 33, but from the denouement of this movie, it would seem like she lived for decades and decades. Around the fifth she's- going-to-die-and-aren't-we-sad song, I was ready to yank the plug myself.

The film does have a huge, epic scope. Director Alan Parker put a lot of effort into making EVITA an eventa, but in the end it's the singing and the epic length that bring this movie down. When going for emotional drama, a song doesn't cut it cinematically, and on the larger scope action scenes, a disco rock score is used. It helps to note that EVITA producer Robert Stigwood also produced the 1978 Frampton / Bee Gee abortion SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND.

Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks

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