Movie Review By Heather Clisby
Call it Beginner's Luck or call it sheer talent but "Eve's Bayou" marks a beautiful beginning for first-time director, Kasi Lemons.
Set in the deep, swampy South, the story is narrated by a grown-up that we never see. Eve tells the story of that one summer when she was 10 - the summer that she killed her father.
Louis Batiste, her father, is the town doctor beloved by wife, family, community and, especially, his female patients. Batiste is played by Samuel L. Jackson and he has never been more charming. We want to love Batiste as everyone else does but we witness just enough shady behavior to withhold our affection. In the end, we discover he's just a man and never felt balanced on the pedestal to begin with.
The entire Batiste family, though one of position and affluence, is unsettled that summer. The mother (played by the stunning Lynn Whitfield) feels the gnawing suspicions of her husband's indiscretions invade her heart and disrupt her family. The eldest daughter, coming of age, doesn't help matters by accusing the mother of "driving Daddy away." There's nothing like seeing a young woman trying out her first catty tantrum on Mama. Not recommended.
The most fascinating character in this dreamy sequence is Aunt Moselle, the sister of Batiste, played by Debbie Morgan, in her most powerful role to date. Moselle has the gift of predicting the near future and finding lost loved ones in the present, by grasping hands with the inquirer and entertaining visions. It's a useful hobby but doesn't help her deal with her inconvenient Black Widow's curse - every time she marries a man, he ends up dead.
Moselle meets her match in a local sorceress who, though covered in scary make-up, cannot escape the fact that she's Diahann Carroll. Elzora is a wonderfully rich character but Ms. Carroll is, believe it or not, still too beautiful to be truly frightening.
The diminutive powerhouse of Jurnee Smollet as 10-year-old Eve is a treat not to be missed. The young actress carries the weight of her character with enthusiasm and brings an erie wisdom to the role that supports the heavy voice of the narrator. We'll be seeing her again.
Lemons has delivered a gorgeous little film - funny, sad and intriguing. "Eve's Bayou" is a rich slice of Southern pie; the music is languid and seductive, the cinemetography is first-rate and you can almost feel the humidity rising from the bog. The costumes are sumptuous and liberally presented - mind you, in the deep South, circa 1960s, women still dressed in hats and pearls to go to market, even if they walked all the way in the heat. Darlin', bring a kerchief.
© 1999 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 11/5/97
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