September 14, 2015
Todd: You know what Madonna's not good at? Movies. You know what she is good at? Music. If she really wants to make movies, why doesn't she just make a musical already?
- Clips from 1980 and 2012 Tony Awards, both featuring performances from the musical Evita
Todd (VO): Broadway smash Evita is the story of a young girl from humble beginnings who used her feminine wiles in arguably scandalous ways to rise to the top and become a world-renowned international idol of fashion and power, and eventually becoming one of the most important female icons of the 20th century.
Todd: It does not take a genius to figure out why Madonna would be attracted to this role.
- Clip from trailer for Evita
Todd (VO): So when Hollywood announced they were finally gonna make the long-awaited film version of the Broadway hit, Madonna decided that she absolutely had to play the title role. And this was super-controversial because 1., Eva Perón is still very much beloved in Argentina, so the country was not thrilled with having their dearest Evita played [picture of Madonna in the throes of passion with a man] by a borderline porn star; and 2., Madonna is a bad actress...
Todd: ...who makes terrible movies.
Todd (VO): But against all odds, she pulled it off. She not only got the role, she also got a hefty portion of critical acclaim for the first time ever. She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress that year, and there was outrage that she was snubbed for an Oscar nomination.
Todd: Even saying Madonna in the same sentence as Oscar would've been laughable the year before, so...
Todd (VO): ...even though she didn't get nominated, this was a humongous leap forward for her film career. Finally, she had the vehicle that proved that she could do something in Hollywood besides make shitty B-movies.
Todd: By God, she could also make shitty prestige movies! [Gives thumbs up]
- Movie begins. Funeral procession.
Todd (VO): Aw man, I have been dying to get to this one, because as far as Broadway goes, I am a huge fan of Evita. Who isn't? Evita is by far...
Todd: ...my favorite musical from Stephen Sondheim, after, of course, Fiddler on the Roof. [beat] I'm not really a theatre person, honestly.
Todd (VO): I didn't actually know very much about Evita. I went over to the house of some friends to watch it because one of them actually is a theatre person—Like, an honest-to-God, actual stage manager on Broadway theatre person—but she mostly just tuned this out and hid in her room, except once when she came out to announce that Andrew Lloyd Webber is, quote...
Todd: ..."such a hack." And I was like, "whaa...? [Cover of Time featuring Webber] How can you be a theatre person and not like Andrew Lloyd Webber?" And then she shot me a look and I don't think I'm invited back there anytime soon. [Picture of Webber] Look, I know that Andrew Lloyd Webber is a bit divisive in the Broadway world. And in this case, we're dealing with something far more serious than, you know, [promo pics for The Phantom of the Opera and Cats] goofy bodice rippers or singing, dancing cats. We are talking about a man and woman who are real people.
- News footage of Juan and Eva Perón
Todd (VO): Not just real people, but incredibly important, towering figures in Latin American history.
Todd: The leader of Argentina, [Picture of Lionel Messi] Juan Perón, and his First Lady, [more news footage] Evita, who was instrumental in his rise, and beloved in her own right.
- Footage of today's Argentina
Todd (VO): Now, I'm hardly a history expert, but I do know that the Peróns leave a complicated legacy, to put it mildly.
So you'd think that would require nuance that Webber's detractors had always accused him of not having.
Todd: But that's all theatre snob stuff. Trust me, I am not a theatre snob. [Beat] But if I were a theatre person, I'd probably be a theatre snob, 'cause I did not enjoy this movie at all.
Todd (VO): I mean, I didn't hate it either. [Singing] It has its moments.
Todd: But mostly, I didn't get it.
Todd (VO): Yeah, I know most people consider Evita Madonna's only good movie, and...
Todd: ...yeah, it is, if you measure goodness by [scene of rally] number of extras. I can just imagine Madonna telling the director, "no, I need more adoring fans chanting my name in this scene."
Todd (VO): But in terms of being a movie, I just don't think Evita works off the stage.
Todd: And there's a good chance it doesn't work on the stage either because it isn't really a musical. It's an album. [Album cover of Evita] It was originally a concept album, and then it got adapted for the stage...
Todd (VO): ...and then for film. And it shows.
- Che (Antonio Banderas): In June of '43, there was a military coup
- Behind it was a gang called the G.O.U.
Todd (VO): First off, there's no spoken dialogue, so it's really more of an opera, and most of this opera is narration. It's almost entirely all tell, no show.
- Che: She's in every magazine, been photographed, seen
- She is known
Todd (VO): So Evita doesn't even seem to get to live most of her story; it just kind of blows past as it gets explained to us by the omniscient narrator.
- Che: What kind of goddess has lived among us?
- How will we after get by without her?
Todd (VO): Oh, hey, it's that Banderas guy. [Clip from...] The guy Madonna was hitting on back in Truth or Dare. I guess he did make some American movies, eventually.
- Che: Spain has fallen to...
Todd (VO): Banderas's narrator character is named Che. In some productions, [clip of Broadway production] he is the Che as in, you know, [picture of Che Guevara] Che. He's not the Che in the movie. Thank God, because Che Guevara has not a...
Todd: ...goddamn thing with the Peróns. But anyway.
- Che: Now Eva Perón had every disadvantage.
Todd (VO): Che narrates the story of Eva, the poor girl who sings very on-the-nose lyrics.
- Eva Perón (Madonna): Screw the middle classes
- I will never accept them.
Todd (VO): She hooks herself up with a touring musician to hitch a ride to Buenos Aires, sleeps her way into a modeling job, and then successfully higher and higher in radio and film.
- Eva: Colonel Perón
Todd (VO): But then she latches onto a powerful man named Juan Perón. And when the climate shifted, and having a peasant-born spouse proved politically advantageous, she jumped on the opportunity and helped bring them both to power. Now, is any of this fair or accurate?
Todd: I have no clue because I'm a stupid American, and certainly the movie is no help.
Todd (VO): Anything involving, you know, actual politics gets about two lines, and then it's back to dancing, cheering crowds, our beloved Madonna.
Todd: I mean, Evita.
Todd (VO): No, seriously, what are we to make of this? Are we supposed to think she was just a fame-hungry slut who slept her way to the top?
Todd: Honestly, maybe we are.
- Che: The greatest social climber since Cinderella
Todd (VO): At the end of the film, I didn't have much of a sense of why Eva was so beloved. She...she seemed to be just famous for being famous. You know, like Kim Kardashian, except she somehow became a country's First Lady, which is, of course, ridicu...[Inquistr article: "Kanye West for President in 2020? Kim Kardashian 'behind him 110%'"] Ugh. Moving on.
- Che: I hate to sound childish, ungrateful, I don't like to moan
- But do you now represent anyone's cause but your own?
Todd: Did she ever? I legitimately don't know.
Todd (VO): I have no idea if she was just exploiting the lower classes or if she legitimately represented something. Even Che himself doesn't seem to know what he thinks about her.
- Che: But who is this Santa Evita?
- Why all this howling, hysterical sorrow?
Todd: He, and by extension, the whole movie, seems to outright loathe the worshipful cult of celebrity she has.
- Che: She didn't say much
- But she said it loud
Todd (VO): But he won't come right out and say, "hey, she was a terrible person, and y'all are gullible idiots." And the movie certainly wants to sell us the image of the glamorous people's First Lady; that's why she gets all the big songs and stuff. So...
Todd: ...I don't know. Like, honestly, I think I know less about Eva Perón than I did before I watched this.
- Che: Name me anyone who cares as much as Eva Perón
Todd (VO): Yeah, I'm not sure I get it. And it's not like they don't have the opportunity to explain. The movie's only two hours, but it feels a lot longer. Part of the reason it drags is that it doesn't ever, like, pause to take a breath. It's overstuffed and bloated and feels more like a long music video than anything. Accordingly, it doesn't really feel like Madonna has that much to do, acting-wise. All she has to do is stand there and be stylish, which, to be fair, is not nothing. Madonna as Eva Perón is great casting, if only because very few other people would be able to project the right kind of image onscreen.
Todd: So as a story and biography, it's kind of confused. But the music. Oh, as a musical, oh buddy, is just...even more confused.
- Agustín Magaldi (Jimmy Nail): The city can be paradise for those who have the cash
Todd (VO): It is all over the place, in style and in quality.
- Eva: Stand back, you wanna know what you're gonna get in me
Todd (VO): Evita the movie is a '90s adaptation of a '70s musical set in the '40s, so, yeah, it's crazy. I don't know what I expected the first note of Evita to be...
Todd: ...but it sure wasn't this.
- Beginning of movie, the moviegoers have been informed of Eva's passing. Sad electric guitar plays over, which Todd imitates with tongue out. Funeral procession has opening riff from Van Halen's "You Really Got Me".
- Juan (Jonathan Pryce) and Eva dance to...
Todd (VO): And that's not to mention the numerous sax solos and synth solos. It's 1996, you can make some concessions to the times, guys.
- Agustín: On this night of a thousand stars
Todd (VO): And yet, it jumps styles everywhere, from regular showtunes to tango...
Todd: ...to...ugh, Webber's horrible attempt at rock music.
- Che: They had themselves a party at the point of a gun
- They were slightly to the right of Attila the Hun
- A bomb or two and very few objected
Todd: And we were smokin' in the boys' room!
- Che: Sing you fools, but you got it wrong
- Enjoy your prayers because you haven't got long
- Your queen is dead, your king is through
- And she's not coming back to you
Todd: Just...imagine Jack Black singing this, that's all I saying.
- Eva: I wanna be a part of BA
- Buenos Aires, Big Apple
Todd (VO): "Buenos Aires, Big Apple"? What?!
- Eva: It's vital you sell me
- So Machiavell me
Todd (VO): What?! What the Christ?! Who wrote this?! [Picture of Tim Rice and Webber at 69th Academy Awards] I mean, I know who wrote this. I mean...
Todd (VO): I'm not a huge fan of the direction either. I assume the director was chosen 'cause he already turned [poster for Pink Floyd – The Wall] one concept album into a movie, but honestly, this movie kinda looks kinda ugly for a biography of a glamour icon. It's trying for realism, but it looks really stagy a lot of the time. The choreography isn't great.
- Lovers: Oh but it's sad
- [Che joins in]
- When a love affair dies
- [Che points them to the doors, closes the doors behind them, turns, and folds his arms]
Todd: Please, tell me that pose is as funny as I think it is.
- One more turn
Todd (VO): Word to your mother.
And similarly, Madonna is kind of all over the place, too.
- Eva: Did you hear that?
- They called me a whore
Todd (VO): I like her voice, but she doesn't have a Broadway voice. I heard that the score was lowered so that Madonna could hit the high notes, but this also means she can't hit the low notes.
- Eva: You oughta know what you gonna get in me
- Just a little touch of star quality
Todd imitates the last low notes
Todd: But I will say this. Most of her performances are great.
- Eva: I'd be good for you
- I'd be surprisingly good for you
Todd (VO): I especially like the one about her telling Juan Perón how good she'd be for him, that one was practically a Madonna song already. Then, of course, you have "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina", which is one of those songs that's known by everyone and their moms, especially their moms. It's the centerpiece of the movie, which is probably why they sing eight different versions of it. And Madonna knocks it out of the park. I said before that Madonna's a bad actress 'cause most of the time, she is, but there are scenes in this movie where she just fucking kills it.
- Juan: Eva, you're dying
- Eva: [through tears] So what happens now?
Todd (VO): My God, I feel...moved.
Todd: I don't know how to deal with this.
Todd (VO): And then she dies. Evita gets a romantically tragic disease and dies young, which I suppose makes a better story than [brief clip of "Bitch I'm Madonna"] getting old and desperately trying to stay relevant in embarrassing ways. And movie ends.
Like I said, there are parts I like, but I just don't feel like it adds up to much. It's just not as good as you remember it being. If anything, Evita kind of reminds me of Dick Tracy, in that it was inescapably, impossibly huge at the time, yet no one seems to think about it much anymore. But like I said, at the time, it garnered Madonna plenty of acclaim, so it was a huge milestone in her film career. And it was also a milestone in another way—it is the very, very last time that Madonna filmed anything...
Todd: ...even remotely good. Buckle up, folks, nothing but shit from here!
- Clip of trailer for...
- Ben Cooper (Benjamin Bratt): Hi, is Abby here?
- [Robert (Rupert Everett) shuts the door in his face, then reopens it]
- Robert: [laughing] Come in.
Closing tag song: "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina"
"Evita" is owned by Buena Vista Pictures
This video is owned by me