Evita is based on the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Actually, the film is more of an opera, with only short moments devoted to dialogue. "Evita" is the friendly, family version of the proper name "Eva," and this film tells the story of Eva Peron (1921-52), a woman whose name evokes powerful feelings in her native Argentina. Throughout this film, as in the musical, the story is explained and commented on by a character known as "Che," played here by Antonio Banderas. The film begins with the news of Evita's death, and then turns to a much earlier scene at her father's funeral. Eva (Madonna) was an illegitimate child (one of many) of a rural landowner and her seamstress mother. Hers is not a wealthy childhood by any means, and she is constantly discriminated against because of her lowly birth. She is refused admission to her father's funeral for this reason. This scene is contrasted with her own funeral, a spectacular affair, not different from the funeral of a beloved head of state. Eva Peron leaves her village at age 15, in the arms her lover Agustin Magaldi (Jimmy Nail), a traveling singer. With his help, she goes to Buenos Aires and begins her campaign to become a performer, actress, and public figure. Many men help her during these years, and she is reported to have given her favors freely. That changes when she becomes involved with Juan Peron (Jonathan Pryce). In 1944, when they meet, Peron is an ambitious young army officer, serving in the right-wing government of the time. When he falls afoul of the government and is imprisoned, Eva uses her position as a celebrity and radio performer to get him released. Peron marries his feisty mistress when he is freed from prison. Eva is a formidable supporter, and her help is crucial to his later becoming head of state. Once Juan Peron becomes the President of Argentina, Eva expects better treatment from Argentina's high society, but they snub her brutally. She, in response, diverts government money from society-led charities, and starts the Eva Peron Foundation. As its president, she works tirelessly to directly better the lot of Argentina's poor. For this work, and for having risen from poor origins to glory, she is beloved by huge masses of her fellow citizens, if not by those in high society. She also arranges for the enfranchisement of women in Argentina. Thus, her death of uterine cancer at age 33, while she was at the height of her power and influence, strikes the whole world as tragic.
by Clarke Fountain synopsis