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Eve's Bayou

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Eve's Bayou

Starring: Jurnee Smollett, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Rated: R
RunTime: 109 Minutes
Release Date: November 1997
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Meagan Good, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Jake Smollett, Ethel Ayler, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Lisa Nicole Carson, Tamara Tunie, Diahann Carroll

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

"The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old," begins the shocking voiceover to EVE'S BAYOU. With a creepy calm, Tamara Tunie as the adult voice of Eve Batiste, sets a serious tone for the story. With the ending murder foretold from the opening moment, one expects first-time writer and director Kasi Lemmons to slowly ratchet up the tension until the deadly event.

The only surprise in the film is its genre. After sketching the outline of a thriller, Lemmons fills in the boxes with a feel-good sitcom. With the packed theater at the screening laughing on cue, the movie felt exactly like an insubstantial television comedy with the audience supplying the laugh track. Typical jokes include the one about the kid who picks up a dead snake that isn't dead afterall -- they're mildly funny, but you've seen them all before.

Samuel L. Jackson plays a likable rogue of a father named Louis Batiste. With a big smile, he can always be counted on to be the healer in the family, that is, when he isn't on his nightly rounds. He is the local doctor in this all-black community, and he provides his pretty female patients with more than just medicine.

At a party, 10-year-old Eve, played with a beautiful smile but not much more by Jurnee Smollett, catches her daddy having sex in the barn with a married woman, but not his wife. He tries to grin his way out of being caught by making up a story for Eve. Although preposterous, Eve believes it at first.

As Louis's crazy sister, Mozelle Batiste Delacroix, Debbi Morgan gets the most outlandish part in the film. Mozelle is a grade B fortune teller. When she predicts that one of the Batiste kids will die, their mother keeps them grounded. Only the joyous event of someone else's kid getting run over by a bus, sets the Batiste children free. As they whoop and holler, they are reminded that someone has died.

Similarly, the writer tries periodically to remind the audience of the ominous events yet to come. Don't laugh too hard; a murder will soon be at hand.

Some of the light touches in the show are nice. Eve likes to quote Romeo and Juliet, which appeals to Shakespearean buffs. Poor Mozelle is upstaged by someone with a genuine gift for prognostication, and who would like to snuff out cheap fakes like Mozelle.

"Sometimes I think there's no point at all, and that's the point," Mozelle tells Eve. Notwithstanding its strikingly dramatic beginning and ending, EVE'S BAYOU, like a typical sitcom, has no point either.

EVE'S BAYOU runs 1:49. It is rated R for sex, nudity, violence and profanity. This fairly mild film would be fine for teenagers.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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