Being a ‘musical’ cynic to watch ‘Evita’ was a challenge indeed; thrown down by my better half as recompense for the hours of film I have made her watch. Quite frankly, I don’t like musicals but as they go this movie adaptation of the hit stage musical wasn’t as unpalatable as my prejudices influenced at the outset.
Evita is the story of B movie actress Evita Duarte who rose through 1940’s Argentinian society to eventually marry President Juan Peron.
Played by Madonna, through the musical medium we are taken right through her early poor childhood struggle to her move to Buenos Aires and ascension by ‘blonde/brunette ambition’ to national fame and celebrity to become Argentina’s most influential woman and first lady.
Evita is one huge song, a sometimes rock musical that succeeds in telling an historic story, that at first, like many musicals (and the reason I don’t like them) leaves it hard to connect to the story with over exuberance and lack of dialogue; but as the captivating story of Evita progressively unfolds, there comes an approval of the format.
There is no dialogue in Evita, and any interludes are pseudo talked/sung which are clunky. Early in the watch when feeling empowered to reach for the off button there’s a feeling of “just stop singing already” but being faithful to the piece (and only ever turning off one film), the songs improve and the adjustment and acceptance of no meaningful actual dialogue eases the way to enjoy a fascinating true story.
Song quality is varying, written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber some are a curious rock operatic mix with some clumsy lyrics, delivered by Jimmy Nail? – as young Eva’s first lover, Antonio Banderas as the narrator – omnipresent in all manner of guises, Madonna herself, and clearly not a singer Jonathon Pryce as president Juan Peron who talk-sings through the few fleeting numbers he is given.
Some of the songs are fantastic, the better ones with humorous lyrics and great arrangement. Evita’s rousing balcony address to her people to the tune of “Don’t cry for me Argentina” the undoubted lyrical and emotional highlight that no ‘musical cynic’ can deny.
Leading lady Madonna is the clear musical talent, iconic in her own right for a myriad of reasons she gives what is her greatest acting performance in a brave choice of role, perfectly cast as no doubt being as divisive as ‘Evita’ herself.
Banderas is superb, curiously taking to his role of singing narrator with clear gusto; he gets the most and hilarious best lyrics to deliver, surprisingly timely in his musical acting, not so much singing ability; he is no less charming and compelling.
Evita hasn’t converted me into a ‘musical’ lover, but it does brilliantly tell a fascinating story of a captivating leader that significantly impacted her people. Quite how ‘Evita’s’ relentless musical telling does so still puzzles, but it’s an admitted achievement.