Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Evita (Movie review)

As we are gearing up for our trip to Argentina, I thought it’d be nice to watch “Evita” again. I must have seen this movie like 20 times and I always could find a lame excuse like this to watch Madonna belt out “Don’t cry for me Argentina” over and over. But joking aside, “Evita” is one of my all time favorite musicals and God knows I have many. Unlike other movie musicals where characters share dialogues and then all of a sudden Wham, Bam, they break out into song and dance numbers, Evita is almost 100% musical, driven only by songs and occasional dance sequences.

Although the story is about Eva Perón , the Argentine spiritual leader and the second wife of the Argentine president, Juan Perón, it is not entirely about the politics. In fact it is about a woman’s journey from a humble beginning to her meteoric rise to the top and the love she shared with a man she believed in and cherished. I always like Madonna but never really can call myself a hard-core fan. She won my heart and respect with “Evita”. Madonna, in “Evita”, is not Madonna, she is THE character and that’s what I love about this movie. I also like the fact that she could finally say “Suck it” to the critics and haters who consistently ridiculed her for her somewhat weak acting and singing skills. With proper training and determination, she has proven that she can transform herself from a controversial pop tart that she’s most famous for to a credible singer and a serious actress. Her dedication and hard work in “Evita” definitely paid off as she took home the award for Best Actress in a comedy/musical in 1997. Deservingly of course!

Songs like “Another suitcase in another hall”, “Don’t cry for me Argentina” and this hauntingly beautiful song exclusively written for the movie version, “You must love me” (the Oscar and the Golden Globe winner of 1997), have become modern classics and that alone gives you an idea of how genius and gifted Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber are and for turning this piece of history into a full-length musical. Although the film’s cinematography got most critics’ approval and some award nominations, I personally feel that there are too many close-up shots and not enough scenes showcasing the beauty of Buenos Aires. Shot mostly in Sepia tone, though an appropriate choice for an epic movie like this, it certainly can be a bit tiring to watch for over an hour. The combination of timeless music and stunning art direction apparent in the opening Eva’s funeral scene and particularly the balcony scene when Eva starts singing “Don’t cry for me argentina”, with the crowd chanting “Evita, Evita” bring goose bumps: one of the most memorable scenes in recent Movie Musicals history!

Although turning a famed musical into a mainstream movie is obviously not an easy feat, the director Alan Parker did such a fine job balancing the elements of politics, love and heroism while successfully blending music, drama and art. Here’s one interesting fact: “Evita” holds the Guinness world record for "Most costume changes in a film" (85 times in total for Madonna). Gorgeous Jackets, Beautiful hats and elegant pencil skirts on Madonna adorn the film’s many scenes. “She's the diamond in their dull grey lives”, Juan Perón (played by Welsh theatre great, Jonathan Pryce) sings in the film praising his wife’s influence and impact on the millions of poor Argentine through her charity work. Madonna is indeed the diamond here not because of the stylish clothes they put her in but because of her incredible acting and singing triumph.

“Have I said too much?
There's nothing more I can think of to say to you.
But all you have to do is look at me to know
That every word is true.”

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