Directed by Alan Parker
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 135 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 26.50
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Review Date: June 27, 2012
The story of Eva Peron, sexual libertine and screen actress who wiled her way into the bed of soon-to-be-Argentinian dictator Juan Peron and became beloved of her people in a very brief life, is familiar if not overly so. We see Eva as a bastard child unable to attend her own father’s funeral. We then see her at 15, able to use sex to get her way with men, and then we follow her upward spiral as she creates a name for herself in Buenos Aires. Throughout the telling of the story (almost all of it in flashback and through-sung in pop opera fashion), a kind of Greek chorus in the person of a singing narrator (Che) comments on Eva’s undertakings or helps to move the story along. Screenwriter Oliver Stone and co-writer/director Alan Parker have placed Che within the scenes he’s commenting on. It makes cinematic sense and works well, practically the only adaptation from the stage version to this screen version that does work. All of the other changes, insertions, and juxtapositions of the stage material work against the movie’s effectiveness.
Antonio Bandaras is a glorious surprise as Che. He literally IS the movie, singing with zestful passion and putting such emotion into his body language while he’s singing that one hangs on his every word/note. His “High Flying Adored” shows him in all his macho magnificence, and it’s a tonic watching his Greek chorus-style character turn up in a variety of guises throughout the film. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Che is the second most important role in the film, he’s not around enough to rescue the movie from the overabundance of Madonna.
No, she’s not terrible. Rather, she’s mostly bland, monotonously sincere without much inner fire that must have been in the heart and soul of the real Eva. Madonna handles the music adequately, but never once does she exude sex appeal or genuine “star quality,” something she sings about in the film’s most disappointing montage “Buenos Aires.” (On stage, this number lifts the audience out of its seats.) The lowering of the keys to accommodate her range takes the excitement and urgency out of the music which, apart from “Waltz for Eva and Che,” just doesn’t measure up to the music’s potential. She’s been given “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” which was on stage the song for Peron’s teenaged mistress (she gets a very brief reprise only) and a new song when she’s near death “You Must Love Me,” two additional numbers in a movie that’s already crammed to the gills with Madonna vocals. She also looks too old for the ages she plays. At 15, she looks 30. For 26, she looks much older than that. Additionally, due to her pregnancy at the time of the shooting, special care had to be taken to photograph her above the waist or with flowers and other accessories covering her “baby bump.” Even with the care taken, there are some shots where her condition is obvious taking the viewer right out of the movie.
Jonathan Pryce, quite at home in musicals on stage, gets a minimum of songs and screen time as Juan Peron, so the impression he makes is an effective if limited one. Jimmy Nail as Agustin Magaldi, Eva’s ticket out of her small town life, handles his “Night of a Thousand Stars” adequately. The movie has a huge cast. The thousands of extras who are squeezed into the widescreen frame are impressive in their size but underwhelming in their impact. Alan Parker does control the crowds well and never allows them to dwarf his stars.
Parker films two montages in the film’s first half that are very effective. “Goodnight and Thank You” covers Eva’s succession of affairs as she climbs the social ladder while “The Lady’s Got Potential,” despite its anachronistic rock beat narrating the part of the story that takes place in the 1940s, covers the musical chairs of changing dictatorships amusingly (though it’s handled in a much wittier fashion in the stage version as an actual game of musical chairs). In the second half, “The Money Keeps Rolling In” makes its point well and helps buoy up the film’s sagging, emotionally debilitating second half.
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. The visuals have a warm look to them, perhaps even a touch too brown, but clarity is above average only, and sharpness is never outstanding. Long shots look especially soft and inexpressive. Color is nicely saturated, but black levels are rather milky, and contrast is a bit foggier than one might like. It’s virtually artifact free, and does constitute a big improvement from the DVD release of some years ago. The film has been divided into 33 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is precisely what one would want for a musical with a large orchestra: a full, rich encode of this pop opera classic with an expansive heft to the music into the fronts and rears and very effective bass management which never overpowers the singers in the center channel. Elsewhere, however, there is a bit less impressive impact with the crowd noises, explosions, and such, but as the music is the film’s reason for existing, these are minor quibbles.
All of the bonus features are presented in 480i.
“The Making of Evita” is a 42 ¼-minute behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the movie in both Argentina and in Europe and featuring interviews with stars Madonna, Antonio Bandaras, and Jonathan Pryce, director Alan Parker, costume designer Penny Rose, and others.
The Oscar-winning song “You Must Love Me” is presented in a music video and is sung by Madonna. It lasts 3 ¼ minutes.
The film’s teaser trailer runs 2 minutes.
There are promo trailers for The Odd Life of Timothy Green and Castle: Season Four.
3.5/5 (not an average)
It’s not the movie that it could have been with a more dynamic singing star at its center, but Evita puts the memorable score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice onto celluloid, and for those who have never seen a first-rate stage version of the musical, it will more than suffice.