1 item from 1997
A long, hot summer in Tennessee Williams country with a Creole family in turmoil, Kasi Lemmons' feature directorial debut focuses beautifully on relationships -- sister-sister, parents-children and mystical-elders-to-troubled-youths. In its use of "magical" voodoo, the film strays from reality, but it engagingly rings true and never fails to impress with its solid filmmaking and richly rewarding performances.
Produced by Caldecott Chubb ("The Crow", "Hoffa") and co-star Samuel L. Jackson, "Eve's Bayou" is one of the classiest items in recent years from distributor Trimark, which should see the worthy project enjoy solid business with discerning black audiences and crossover viewers intrigued by, no-doubt, generally positive reviews.
An actress ("Silence of the Lambs", "Hard Target") and screenwriter, and the wife of filmmaker-actor Vondie Curtis Hall (who plays a small role in the film), Lemmons has a sure and steady hand with actors and the economical-but-evocative style to fashion this moody tale into a literate and sometimes challenging drama with humorous elements that arise naturally from the material.
Narrated by and centered on 10-year-old Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett), Lemmons' original scenario quickly reveals the core problem in the otherwise stable lives of Eve and her older sister Cisely (Megan Good). Their country-doctor father Louis (Jackson) is fooling around regularly with patients and old girlfriends, even as he professes true love for his wife Roz (Lynn Whitfield) and otherwise embraces family life.
While Eve and Cisely struggle to cope with knowledge that undermines their love and faith in dad, their mother and aunt Mozelle (Debbi Morgan), Louis' sister, form an allegiance. The latter has a "gift" that allows her to access the spiritual world, a way of seeing the truth in a situation involving physical and metaphysical contact between the priestess and those seeking her healing powers.
Eve and Mozelle spend a lot of time together, and Eve begins to develop her own powers but consults Mozelle's rival Elzora (Diahann Carroll) when the desire for justice overrules family bonds. In the final half-hour of this leisurely paced and loosely plotted film that's never tedious or unduly manipulative, an incident between Louis and Cisely causes a horrific blowup with tragic consequences, but it's not a completely downbeat resolution.
Along with all-around terrific performances -- Jackson has rarely been better and Carroll is excellent in her few scenes -- "Eve's Bayou" is visually rewarding, thanks to cinematographer Amy Vincent, and makes good use of another fine score by Spike Lee's regular composer, Terence Blanchard ("Get on the Bus", "Clockers").
A Chubbco/Addis Wechsler production
A Kasi Lemmons film
Writer-director Kasi Lemmons
Producers Caldecott Chubb, Samuel L. Jackson
Executive producers Mark Amin, Eli Selden,
Nick Wechsler, Julie Yorn
Director of photography Amy Vincent
Editor Terilyn A. Shropshire
Production designer Jeff Howard
Costume designer Karyn Wagner
Music Terence Blanchard
Casting Jaki Brown-Karman,
Robyn M. Mitchell
Eve Batiste Jurnee Smollett
Cisely Megan Good
Louis Samuel L. Jackson
Roz Lynn Whitfield
Mozelle Debbi Morgan
Elzora Diahann Carroll
Running time -- 109 minutes
MPAA rating: R
1 item from 1997
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