"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
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