"Consumed by Ambition"
What You Need To Know:
EVITA is a stunning musical portrait of an impoverished, illegitimate, little girl who claws her way to the top. Told solely through song, the movie does not white-wash Evita’s (played by Madonna) corrupt past nor her dedication to national socialism, but rather features stylized images of her manipulations as she works her way to the top of the political ladder, where she meets Juan Peron. The narrator, Che′ (played by Antonio Banderas), tells us that the people were the real show and that: Evita’s words were empty and she stole from everyone as she took every opportunity to advance herself. Throughout the film, the music and cinematography tries to emotionally engage the audience in the political idolatry of the 20th century.
Clearly the point of all this is to show us how easy it is to be manipulated., how our emotions can blind us to the facts. The movie starts out with great power, but ends with a whimper. There are very few offensive elements in this movie, and it is not a pro-Fascist diatribe. The better news is that it is a beautiful production. The not so good news is that the script does not sustain the weight of all this magnificence and does not allow the actors the character growth that they need to soar.
(B, C, L, VV, S, A, D, M) Moral worldview about an immoral woman with scenes of religious & political idolatry as well as a brief positive Christian reference; 1 obscenity; mild violence including stylized soldiers attacking civilians with swords, guns, & bombs but little or no blood except in stylized aftermath pictures; frequent highly stylized sexual innuendo including implied prostitution & implied adultery such as Eva dancing the tango with one partner after another while the narrator sings about her using men to advance her status in life; no nudity but woman in nightgown; alcohol use; smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality including lying, cheating, stealing, fraud, unjust political activity, & socialist thuggery.
Setting politics aside for a moment, EVITA is a stunning musical portrait of an impoverished, illegitimate, little girl who claws her way to the top. Alan Parker’s motion picture translation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical play is replete with authenticity and mythic grandeur. A story told solely through song, it does not white-wash the historical Evita’s corrupt past nor her selfish dedication to national socialism, but presents these character traits with a savior- fare that is rare in movies. Thus, instead of seeing Evita jump into bed and prostitute herself with a series of men, we see a series of beautifully stylized tangos as Evita works her way to the top, where she meets Juan Peron.
The narrator, in song, of the spectacle is the revolutionary Che′ (played by Antonio Banderas). He tells us that the people, not Evita, were the show and that: Evita’s words were empty, she stole from everyone and she took every opportunity to advance herself. At the same time as he provides this cynical view of this rags to riches story, the music and cinematography try to emotionally engage the audience in the political idolatry of the 20th Century. (It is interesting that the Bible relates idolatry and adultery as equally vile in the eyes of God, and this movie does the same in terms of the disgust expressed by Che′ at Eva’s sexual opportunism and the people’s idolizing of her as if is she was a saint.)
Clearly the point of all this is to show us how easy it is to be manipulated and how our emotions can blind us to the facts that we see clearly. Thus, for those with eyes to see, this movie will provide a sobering insight into the political propagandizing of the 20th Century. However, this is an intellectual exercise, and it takes a great deal of attention to the words, the images and the characters to understand the message of this movie. One wonders if many people are gong to have this much patience or acuity to put the pieces of this musical puzzle together.
As one pundit has pointed out, this is not Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest musical. Basically, there are only one or two songs that are memorable. The title song DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGINTENA is, of course, a masterpiece, and it alone allowed the filmmakers to craft a very powerful commercial. However, most of the other songs just advance the narrative. The constant, revolutionary marching beat and intense, often angry lyrics allow no room for reflection and leaves one slightly exhausted. Furthermore, the movie starts out with great power, but ends with a whimper. Even if this was an intentional statement about misguided political hopes, it goes against the grain of good filmmaking. In fact, many mediocre movies that end strongly become hits just because of the ending. Seldom is the reverse true.
People have critiqued Madonna’s acting which is surprisingly good since the part itself is limiting with the arc of her character’s growth being very narrowly defined. The good news is that this is not a pro-Fascist diatribe. The better news is that it is a beautiful production. The not so good news is that the script does not sustain the weight of all this magnificence and does not allow the actors the character growth that they need to soar. The interesting thing is that there are very few offensive elements in this movie. There is only one obscenity and everything else is portrayed by innuendo and suggestion. The violent army scenes are very stylized, brief images to suggest terror. Such restraint in stylization is a relief in light of the blood and gore that Hollywood normally gives us. It is this restraint alone that would urge us to hope that EVITA will succeed.