SHE’S OKAY BUT. . .
I wish I could put my finger on why Evangeline irks me, she does, but all I can come up with is, she reminds me of a real over-achieving, anal-retentive, smug, self-satisfied, immature high school Honor student.
That she’s involved in one of the first adult relationships on-screen – as portrayer Renee Elise Goldsberry once told SOAP OPERA PREVIEWS – with Michael Easton’s John McBain further muddies the waters of my discontent.
Their adult relationship involves plenty of open communication, honesty even when it hurts (as it had two weeks ago when she disappointed him with a betrayal) and a self-aware habit of deadpanning the very deep instincts they truly desire, like committing to a whirlwind romance toward forever. “They seem to really be clear about what they are getting into and what’s going on with each other. [SOAP OPERA PREVIEWS, Jan. 17, 2005]” These are traits Goldsberry and I both agree make for fascinating viewing.
The downfall occurs when Goldsberry’s Evangeline sinks down to a level far beneath her to keep John close, putting a lie to those words. The irony of this tactic is an intentional refusal to observe the tenets of honesty, to preserve a cool, dignified, efficient, independent image, even when it costs her what she desires most – whether she’s willing to open up to this or not – and that’s a walk down the aisle to a man who wants only her, who challenges but worships her, and who weakens in the soul at the prospect of having their children.
A lot of the time, Evangeline, and to a lesser extent, John, refuse to say what it is they really want, dancing around the subject, trying to be clever, modern, going on too succinctly about suffering a complex when it comes to commitment, holding back a torrent, a murdered fiancée, a dying father’s hope.
I get this clever poseur façade from Evangeline more than John actually, because the guy’s fascinated with the booty that is Natalie (who could blame him?), and the effortless knowing that Jolie is cool, dark and mysterious without talking it to death.
Evangeline prides herself on being this big deal career woman, a total professional, a winning cutthroat lawyer, excellent at every endeavor, even if it’s something minor such as tennis. She’s written her own novel with all the characters in it, and whether she does wrong or not, finds a way to revise the story to fit her prideful image.
With R.J., she never gave. He chased. She dabbled, always ready to walk out on him should he expect more, like a pulse. His dangerous reputation fit her mysterious image, and served her well until he wanted what any normal man would want, a commitment, not just implied then blown to smithereens at the next casual opportunity (one gets the feeling she would’ve done it with any guy she happened to be with, not just John, simply out of a sense of restlessness with herself and the sagging part of the novel).
Because however Evangeline wants to look at it, play semantics with the language, twist events to suit her always righteousness, she cheated on R.J. in the worst way, with a virtual stranger, just because. Until she is allowed by the writers to address this anomaly in an understandable connection to her character’s inner motivation, stemming from childhood, her relationships from then on will always be tainted with the stench of duplicity, vanity and flighty slut.
She used R.J.’s valid jealousy as an excuse to go all the way with another man. Then, with John, she finished what she started, she continued adding the layers of her lover’s dark shadows onto her own bereft, lacking woman-made soul.
Except for the expert lawyer deal, I don’t know who Evangeline is. I glimpse a little bit of the loyal friend, the vulnerable and insecure woman dying for affection from a brilliant, handsome and successful powermonger, and the easygoing, affable team player with a great sense of humor (as long as it’s not remotely at her expense), when she’s around fellow over-achiever Nora.
Otherwise, it’s painfully evident that Evangeline is like this giddy, inexperienced, sheltered high school nebbish who suddenly scored a date with the quarterback (or, in John’s case, the motorcycle-riding, beatnik poet type featured in the Nicolas Cage/Kathleen Turner movie “Peggy Sue Got Married”).
To fit in, Evangeline mimicks what’s expected of her current paramour. If he’s not about commitment because of a previously bad scene, then she’ll back off and be about not needing any man too. She’ll even throw in a few thinly veiled references to her own dark past – her father died before she could show off her straight A average in the courts! Whoo hoo, call the “Breakfast Club!!” – to match his.
And when she can contain her natural impulses (to mate for life, remember?) no longer, the jig resembles something like this:
EVANGELINE: WELL? DO YOU OR DO YOU NOT STILL WANT TO BE WITH NATALIE?
JOHN: WE’RE FRIENDS.
EVANGELINE: YOU’RE MORE THAN FRIENDS. I CAN TELL YOU THINK ABOUT HER ALL THE TIME. YOU’RE GOING OVERBOARD ON THIS PAUL CASE FOR HER. AND NOW THIS THING WITH CRISTIAN.
JOHN: I OWE HER AND CRISTIAN, FOR WHAT WENT DOWN IN VEGAS.
EVANGELINE: BUT IT’S MORE. YOU CAN’T GET HER OUT OF YOUR MIND. YOU’RE ALWAYS AROUND HER. IT’S NOT THE SAME WITH US. WHAT AM I TO YOU, A CONVENIENCE? DO I GET TO YOU LIKE SHE DOES? AM I HOT IN BED? DO I MAKE YOU FORGET HER BIG HOOTERS, OR ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT TOUCHING THEM WHEN YOU’RE GOING DOWN ON ME?
JOHN: WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?
EVANGELINE: HONESTY, JOHN. (AND EVERY SONG DEDICATION UNTIL YOU CROAK.)
John doesn’t have an honesty problem. Evangeline does. From my vantage point, she seems so afraid of losing a good thing, a bragging right, the dark, handsome, sexy trophy of a boyfriend that no other chick can bag, that she’s willing to lie to herself and to him about really wanting more until she blows up with petty jealousy.
For if she really walked the talk about her independent, self-sufficient aversion to marriage and commitment as she so often brags to John, she wouldn’t mind the occasional Natalie talk, sighting or help. If she were really confident in her esteem as she is as a lawyer, Natalie would be insignificant, just a pathetic, needy, spoiled moody little failure of a brat.
When John pours his heart out to Evangeline, practically proclaiming his devotion only to her on billboards, saying the most romantic thing any woman on this earth could hear from a truly commitment-shy, troubled young man like him. . . you’d think he just asked her to pick up some eggs and milk on her way to the office. She’ll melt for about five seconds, then demand more, demand total annihilation of her rival Natalie in his eyes, word and deed.
She wants John to treat Natalie like a homeless crack dealer with herpes (or the way he treats Jessica, hee hee), then erect a temple of homage to her, telling the whole wide world how much he loves her, how he never realized such all-consuming love, even for his dead fiancée what’s her face, until he met Evangeline, and go on and on about the poetry of her singular beauty.