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(1997) (Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield) (R)

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Drama: A southern family's life falls apart as the father's philandering ways become too much for his family and especially his ten-year-old daughter.
The Batiste's are a well-to-do southern family living in the swampy bayou lands of Louisiana. Louis (SAMUEL L. JACKSON), the father, is a prosperous physician who treats the sick but also has a weakness for "treating" the town's lonely ladies. This puts a constant strain on his marriage to Roz (LYNN WHITFIELD), who knows about his adulterous ways, but pretends not to. Meanwhile the kids, fourteen-year-old Cisely (MEAGAN GOOD), ten-year-old Eve (JURNEE SMOLLETT), and nine-year-old Poe (JAKE SMOLLETT) try to ignore the problems and just be children.

Events soon occur, however, that make the two sisters grow up faster than they had expected or hoped. Their uncle is killed in car crash, that leaves their aunt Mozelle (DEBBI MORGAN), a three-time widow, believing that she's cursed in marriage. Things really change, however, when Eve discovers her father having an affair. He reassures her that he still loves Roz, and Cisely tells Eve that she misunderstood what she saw. Yet when Cisely later claims their father drunkenly tried to take advantage of her, Eve sets out to make sure he never hurts their family again.

Consulting a local voodoo seer, Elzora (DIAHANN CARROLL), Eve wants her father dead, something Mozelle, who's also a psychic, can feel, but not clearly read. As Eve's "curse" is set into motion, she suddenly realizes what she's done and tries to do everything to save her father and her family before it's too late.

It's not very likely unless they're fans of someone in the cast.
For sexuality and language.
  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON plays a physician and loving family man who also carries on adulterous affairs and often gets drunk.
  • LYNN WHITFIELD plays the slightly neurotic mother who must deal with her adulterous husband and her increasingly rebellious daughters.
  • MEAGAN GOOD plays the oldest daughter who becomes the most rebellious before withdrawing into her shell after her father refuses her romantic advances toward him.
  • JURNEE SMOLLETT plays the middle child who also becomes rebellious, but also takes a more serious turn as she plots to put a fatal voodoo curse on her father for the problems he's created for their family.
  • DEBBI MORGAN plays the aunt who is a "medium" who can see into the spiritual world.
  • DIAHANN CARROLL plays a voodoo seer who also deals with the occult and may (if you believe in such things) be somewhat responsible for Louis' death.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    This is a tremendous directorial debut by actress/writer Kasi Lemmons. Mixing shades of Tennessee Williams with bits of southern delta voodoo mystery, Lemmons has crafted an impressive story headlined by a great cast. This is despite the fact that we know right from the beginning what's going to happen near the end of the movie. The film opens with the following passage, "Memory is a selection of images. Some elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father, I was ten years old." By structuring the story the way she has, Lemmons creates a noteworthy tragedy where family lies and mistrust are its eventual undoing. Although we know that Samuel L. Jackson's character is going to be killed, it's the mystery of how, and better yet why, that keeps our attention riveted on the screen.

    That's relatively easy for Lemmons to accomplish as she's gathered a noteworthy cast that delivers some fine performances. Obviously everyone will focus on Jackson and his take on the adulterous family physician. Proving what we've believed -- and known -- all along, Jackson again proves that he's one of the best actors working in the movies today. He creates a character who's both good and bad, a guy you like for his charming ways and his love for his family, but hate for his cheating behavior that ultimately destroys him and that family. Playing against his normal (of late) "in-your-face" acting type, Jackson delivers a deeply drawn character that reminds us more of someone Laurence Fishburne would play. Like that other great actor often does, however, Jackson easily fills the role and creates a memorable character.

    The performances that are the most outstanding, however, come from the two young ladies who play the sisters in the film. Meagan Good perfectly captures that adolescent age where childhood crashes into the harsh reality of becoming an adult, and is quite believable in her performance. Yet it's Jurnee Smollett as the title character who delivers the best performance. In just her second feature film (she had a small part in the Robin Williams movie "Jack"), Smollett holds her own against the film's more accomplished actors & actresses, and creates an amazingly complex ten-year-old character. Seemingly at ease and avoiding the often precociously cute little girl stereotype, Smollett delivers one of the best performances from a child her age in a long time -- and it may be one of the best ever. Don't be surprised if a few acting nominations come her way from this film. After such a fine performance, she should be in high demand in Hollywood and seems to have a bright future should she wish to pursue a career in films.

    The other performances from noted actresses such as Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, and Diahann Carroll are also very good. What sets these characters, and this film, apart from many other films is that the characters are so distinctive. They've been expertly fleshed out in the story, and the performers have given them even more depth and soul once they've embodied them. While you'll occasionally find films that have these attributes, it's very rare for a first-time director to accomplish that. Perhaps it's due to Lemmons' acting background that she focuses as much energy on the characters as she does the plot. Then again, maybe she's inspired by her husband, Vondie Curtis Hall (a minor character in this film) who has proven to be quite the triple talent himself (actor, writer, & director) and who helmed the little seen, but also impressive directorial debut, "Gridlock'd."

    The film only has a few shaky moments, such as Lemmon's decision to add a lighthearted, nearly fun musical score that accompanies several of Eve's dealings with Elzora. They seem misplaced and undermine what's really happening, nearly giving the scenes a comic spin when this girl is actually trying to put an occult contract on her father's head. Otherwise, there are some splendid moments, including a sequence where the kids are trapped in the house because their mother won't let them leave for fear of Mozelle's premonition of them getting run over. Likewise, scenes where Mozelle tells a story that comes alive in the reflection of a mirror while she watches are handled quite professionally and certainly do not suggest that Lemmons is indeed just a first time director. With such a film under her belt, we expect to see many sensational features from this young talent in the near future. While it's certainly not the happiest film in town, it has enough bright moments to keep it from being a downer, and plenty of tremendous performances and direction to make it worth seeing. We give "Eve's Bayou" an 8 out of 10.

    This film contains many bits of material that some viewers may find objectionable. There are two sexual encounters, one that's seen in flashback with grainy shots that briefly show some nudity. In the other we see some movement and hear some sounds, but probably more troubling is that a young daughter catches her father having an affair in that scene. That leads to the many familial problems that exist in this film, and there's plenty of arguing and kids becoming rebellious and talking back to their mother to go around. Beyond the father's adulterous ways, he's also often drunk. Profanity is nearly extreme with at least 8 "f" words, four of which are used sexually. There are several violent scenes, including two where men are shot and killed with guns (but not graphically). The film also deals with the occult as two of the women are fortune tellers/seers, with one of them dealing with voodoo material. It's doubtful many kids of any age will want to see this film, but if someone in your family does, you should read through the scene listings first.

  • People drink at a party at the Batiste's house, and the three children may have drank some champagne during this party. Later, Louis and his brother-in-law are drunk.
  • Mozelle drinks while mourning the death of her husband.
  • We see brief flashes of a man "shooting up" drugs in one of Mozelle's visions.
  • We see Louis somewhat drunk in several more scenes and see him drinking in a bar.
  • Eve holds up Cisely's underwear that has a small blood stain on them (from her period).
  • Some viewers may not like the fact that several characters in this film deal in the occult (fortune telling, voodoo, etc...).
  • Louis has both as he continually has affairs with other women, even after Eve caught him in the middle of one of them.
  • Cisely refers to the woman her father was with as a "cow."
  • Cisely begins to talk back to her mother and questions her rules and decisions, and Eve becomes a little rebellious as well.
  • We learn that Mozelle had an affair while married.
  • Eve tries to steal a pineapple from a market stand but drops it after seeing Elzora. She also later takes money from her father's money clip.
  • After believing that her father hurt Cisely, Eve declares that she wants him dead, and goes to a voodoo seer to cast a spell on him.
  • Mozelle talks about a lover of hers holding a gun to her husband's chest and later shooting him as the men argue over who will "have" Mozelle (we see most of it in a flashback).
  • If younger children are allowed to see this, Elzora's voodoo appearance and/or her evil-sounding laughter may frighten them.
  • A jealous husband confronts Louis after he finds him in a bar with his wife. The man is armed and threatens to kill Louis whose drunken state prevents him from keeping his mouth shut.
  • Handgun: Seen in one of Mozelle's flashbacks and used by one man to shoot and kill another man, and also used in another scene by a jealous husband to shoot another man dead.
  • Phrase: "Cow" (how Cisely refers to another woman).
  • Eve gives her younger brother chocolates that in reality are chocolate-covered bees.
  • Cisely begins to talk back to her mother as she questions her rules and decisions.
  • Eve puts a small mounted (or fake) rattlesnake next to her sleeping brother's head and he wakes up screaming.
  • Eve steals money from her father's money clip.
  • Eve meets with Elzora to have her put a fatal voodoo curse on her father.
  • A person is unexpectedly shot in a flashback scene.
  • A few scenes have a mild amount of suspenseful music in them.
  • None.
  • Due to crowd noise and low audio volume, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • At least 8 "f' words (4 used sexually), 1 "s" word, 8 damns, 5 hells, 2 asses, and 5 uses of "G- damn," 2 uses each of "Oh my God" and "Oh Lord" and 1 use of "God" as exclamations.
  • Eve wakes up in the carriage house and sees her father having sex (standing up) with another woman. We see some movement and hear some sounds, but don't see any nudity.
  • A "patient" who Louis is treating acts sultry toward him and suggestively asks if he can give her "something for the pain." He then closes the door and we assume that they have sex.
  • We see a grainy, black and white "vision" of a man and woman having sex and we briefly see the woman's bare butt.
  • After Mozelle tells her new boyfriend that she's barren, he tells her that she's just wounded and (pointing to her) says, "It's here that I'll plant seeds." He could be referring to her heart ("seeds of hope") or may be saying it sexually.
  • Mozelle smokes in several scenes as does Elzora, and we see Louis smoke in one.
  • Some people smoke in a bar.
  • The family is quite dysfunctional. Louis has affairs and he and Roz fight, sometimes in front of the kids, other times in secret but the kids can still hear it. Consequently, Cisely becomes rebellious and talks back to her mother ("Aren't you being a bit immature?" and "What's the matter with you?"), and Eve then also becomes rebellious and wishes that her father were dead.
  • Eve is jealous that her father always dances in public with Cisely but not with her.
  • Eve sees her father having sex with another woman.
  • Mozelle and the family must deal with the death of Mozelle's husband (killed in a car accident).
  • A woman comes to Mozelle and tells her that she and her husband are worried about their son who's been missing for two months.
  • Cisely becomes withdrawn after an encounter with her father that's shown in two ways. She first says that he drunkenly tried to kiss her, but we later learn that she aggressively kissed him. In any event, he then smacks her, thus shattering what was left of her childhood. After Cisely tells Eve the first version, Eve says, "I'll kill him for hurting you" and then proceeds to initiate a voodoo curse to kill him.
  • Cisely leaves home to stay with relatives because she can longer put up with the many problems or the above scene. Before leaving, Eve asks Cisely if she's leaving because of something Eve did.
  • The family must deal with Louis' death.
  • Family problems and fighting between the parents, and between a parent and a child.
  • The occult (fortune tellers, voodoo, etc...).
  • Louis and his brother-in-law get into a brief, drunken pushing match.
  • Mozelle takes Elzora's money jar and throws it to the ground, breaking it, after Elzora tells her that she's cursed in marriage.
  • Mozelle talks about a lover of hers holding a gun to her husband's chest and later shooting him as the men argue over who will "have" Mozelle (we see it in a flashback).
  • Roz smacks Cisely after she makes a comment to her mother.
  • We see a dead child (no blood or gore) after he or she was hit by a bus.
  • Cisely chases after Eve, tackles her, and then tries to choke her on the ground.
  • We see Louis smack Cisely after she aggressively kisses him.
  • A man is shot and killed by a jealous husband.

  • Reviewed October 3, 1997

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