Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kasi Lemmons|
|Produced by||Caldecot Chubb|
Samuel L. Jackson
|Written by||Kasi Lemmons|
|Music by||Terence Blanchard|
|Edited by||Terilyn A. Shropshire|
|Distributed by||Trimark Pictures|
Eve's Bayou is a 1997 American drama film written and directed by Kasi Lemmons, who made her directorial debut with this film. Samuel L. Jackson served as a producer, and starred in the film with Lisa Nicole Carson, Jurnee Smollett, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Meagan Good and Diahann Carroll.
Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett), a 10-year-old girl, lives in a prosperous Creole-American community in Louisiana with her younger brother Poe (Jake Smollett) and her older sister Cisely (Meagan Good) in the 1960s. Their parents are Roz (Lynn Whitfield) and Louis (Samuel L. Jackson), a well-respected doctor in Louisiana's "colored" community who claims descent from the French aristocrat who founded the town of Eve's Bayou. One night after a raucous party, Eve accidentally witnesses her father having sex with Matty Mereaux (Lisa Nicole Carson), a family friend. However, Cisely, who has a very affectionate relationship with her father, convinces Eve that she misinterpreted an innocent moment. The unreliability of memory and observation remain important themes throughout the film.
The summer quickly becomes a chaotic and stressful one for the Batiste family. Eve's relationship with her parents becomes more strained as she discovers more evidence of her father's serial infidelity. Cisely comes into conflict with both her sister and mother as she enters puberty and tries to navigate the difficult transition to adulthood, particularly with regard to her appearance and sexuality. Roz eventually begins to suspect her husband's infidelity, prompting conflict between the two as well.
During the chaotic summer, Eve often seeks refuge with her Aunt Mozelle (Debbi Morgan) who works as a "psychic counselor" and has had three husbands who all died violently; the most recent having died in a car crash. Eve, who has a premonitory dream shortly before the accident occurs, is told by Mozelle that the gift of second sight runs in their family. Mozelle's gift also brings her into direct conflict with Elzora (Diahann Carroll), a fortune teller and possible witch with similar abilities. When asked for a reading by Roz, Elzora implies that an unexpected "solution" to her problem will arise, but to wait and look to her children in the meantime. When Mozelle grudgingly makes a similar request, Elzora cruelly tells her that she is a "black widow," whose future husbands will suffer the same fate as her previous ones. Meanwhile, Eve, frustrated by her father's infidelity, begins to act out, bringing her into conflict with the other members of her family. Cisely begins to behave strangely as well, isolating herself from the family after experiencing her first period.
Cisely later confides in Eve the secret behind her strange mood. She tells her that one night, after their parents had a vicious argument, Cisely went to comfort her father and he, while drunk, attempted to molest her. Enraged, Eve seeks out Elzora to commission a voodoo spell to put a fatal curse on her father. While on her way to visit the witch, Eve runs into Lenny Mereaux (Roger Guenveur Smith) and questions him about his teaching job that keeps him away from home. In the conversation, she alludes to a possible tryst between his wife, Matty, and her father.
Eve is under the impression that she is going to receive a voodoo doll of her father. When returning to the witch to get her doll, she is informed that there is no doll and that, per her request, a curse has been placed on her father. In an attempt to save him, Eve rushes to bring her father home, finding him in a bar chatting with Matty Mereaux. At the same time, a drunken Lenny arrives to take Matty home. After a confrontation, Lenny and Matty leave the bar, and Lenny tells Louis that he will kill him if he talks to Matty again. After Louis says goodbye to Matty, Lenny shoots and kills Louis.
After her father's funeral, Eve soon finds a letter which her father wrote to Mozelle, disputing the accusations. In it, he claims that Cisely had come to him that night and kissed him, first as a daughter and then as a lover. In his drunken state, he reacted violently, slapping her and pushing her to the ground, which made her angry with him. Eve confronts Cisely and uses her second sight to discover what really happened. It ends with the sisters holding hands, gazing at the sunset.
The film received positive reviews, with Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert naming it the best film of 1997.CNN's Paul Tatara,Empire,Entertainment Weekly,The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Times,The New York Observer,The New York Times,TIME,Variety, and The Washington Post also loudly praised the film and its performances.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 82% based on 55 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Eve's Bayou marks a striking feature debut for director Kasi Lemmons, layering terrific performances and Southern mysticism into a measured meditation on disillusionment and forgiveness." The film did receive many accolades. Debbi Morgan's performance would be her most honored film role, with four nominations and two wins. The film is also noted for Jurnee Smollett's performance; up to this point, she had worked primarily as a TV actress, with Jack as her only previous film.
I was a big enough name to get three million dollars to get it made. And that's what we made it for. Three million dollars? Three million dollars, yeah.