Insomnia File #37: Evita (dir by Alan Parker)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were in a hotel room in Alabama and you discover that you couldn’t get to sleep despite having a busy day ahead of you, you could have always turned on the TV and watched the 1996 musical extravaganza, Evita.

That’s what I did!

Evita, of course, is based on the award-winning musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Opening in 1952, with Argentina being thrown into mourning and chaos by the death of Eva Peron (Madonna), the film then flashes back to follow Eva as she goes from being a child of poverty to a well-known actress to eventually the wife of Argentina’s president, Juan Peron (Jonathan Pryce).  The majority of her story is told to us by Che (Antonio Banderas), a cynical observer who pops up in various disguises and who is always quick to accuse Eva of selling out the poor while, at the same time, professing to be as obsessed with her as everyone else.  Much as they did with the story of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Rice and Lloyd Weber use the story of Eva Peron to explore what it means to be a celebrity in an unstable world.

(If anyone ever decides to produce a musical about the Kardashians, they would be fools not to approach Rice and Lloyd Webber to write it.)

Evita is kind of a strange film.  On the one hand, it’s a wonderful spectacle.  Director Alan Parker does a wonderful job visually interpreting the music.  The sets are huge and ornate.  The costumes are to die for.  There’s never a moment when you don’t want to look at the screen.  Parker keeps the action moving and, regardless of how cynical one may be about politics, it’s hard not to be impressed by the army of extras that march through the film, chanting “Peron.”  While both the musical and film undoubtedly took liberties with the actual story (and don’t watch this film expecting to see any acknowledgment of the countless number of Nazi war criminals that Peron welcomed to Argentina after the fall of the Third Reich), it still does a great job of capturing the sweep of change and revolution.  You watch the film and you understand why the citizens of an unstable country would put their faith in messianic leaders like the Perons.  Jonathan Pryce does a good job playing Peron and Antonio Banderas is absolutely on fire as Che.

(In some stage productions, Che is specifically portrayed as being a young Che Guevara.  Guevara, of course, was a racist mass murderer who became an icon because he was photogenic.  Fortunately, the film is content to portray Che as simply being a politically active citizen of Argentina.)

And yet, there is an emptiness at the center of this adaptation of Evita and that emptiness is named Madonna.  Strangely, for someone who has been a star longer than I’ve been alive, Madonna has absolutely zero screen presence.  She looks glamorous enough for the part and she’s got a good enough voice for the songs but, whenever she actually has to act, Madonna’s performance feels awkward and forced.  Her performance is too obviously calculated, and, as a result, there’s nothing natural about her or her interpretation of Evita.  To put it simply, she tries too hard.  She comes across as the type of performer who doesn’t so much smile as she acts the process of smiling.  When Madonna performs opposite Pryce and Banderas, they’re both good enough to carry her through their shared scenes.  But whenever Madonna has to hold the screen on her own, the film falls strangely flat.

The end result is a strangely uneven film, one that leaves little doubt that Eva Person was loved while, at the same time, never seeming to understand why.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline

3 responses to “Insomnia File #37: Evita (dir by Alan Parker)

  1. THANK YOU. I recently watched this on Turner Classic Movies and the first thing that hit me was that Madonna’s star power has never really translated well to the screen. There’s only two movies of hers we can point to and say; “Yeah, she was good in that”: “Who’s That Girl” and “Desperately Seeking Susan”

    Madonna is fine when she’s singing but otherwise, meh. By the end of the movie I still had no understanding of why Eva Peron became such a near messianic figure to the Argentine people.

    The reason to watch EVITA? Antonio Banderas. His character glides through the movie effortlessly, taking on any and all roles he needs to in order to tell the story. Banderas is magnificent. There’s just no other way to put it. And yes, Alan Parker’s direction is epic. Some of the crowd scenes during the revolution reminded me of similar scenes in “Reds” Visually the movie is a knockout.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 7/9/18 — 7/15/18 | Through the Shattered Lens

  3. Pingback: Insomnia File #38: Six: The Mark Unleashed (dir by Kevin Downes) | Through the Shattered Lens

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