Eve's Bayou (1996)

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Black female writer-director Kasi Lemmons made her feature directorial debut with this period family drama set in the South. Depicting the the African-American experience with a female slant, Lemmons shunned the usual urban violence and race issues of black films for a different approach, a jambalaya of Southern gentility, bayou traditions, and voodoo visions. The Southern Gothic saga pivots around a prosperous Creole family in Louisiana during the year 1962 -- as seen through the eyes of intensely curious, precocious, and perceptive ten-year-old Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett). Eve's coming-of-age events are introduced through her adult voiceover narration (Tamara Tunie), which begins, "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." Her father, Louis Batiste (Samuel L. Jackson), is the area's much-respected doctor, and the proud and beautiful Roz (Lynn Whitfield) is Eve's mother. But Louis has an eye for other women, and after Eve catches him in the barn with an attractive, married woman, Matty Mereaux (Lisa Nicole Carson), he must reassure the child that he still loves her mother. Nevertheless, Eve is shaken by what she has seen, and she tells her older sister Cisely (Meagan Good). Eve's impulsive Aunt Mozelle (Debbi Morgan), a sexy, superstitious widow with three past husbands, has taken on a new lover, Julian Grayraven (Vondie Curtis Hall). Finding her beliefs in family loyalty crumbling, the young girl visits voodoo priestess Elzora (Diahann Carroll). A Pandora's box of long-buried Batiste clan secrets has been opened beneath the shade of the magnolia trees, and Eve struggles through the summer to save her family. Filmed on location by cinematographer Amy Vincent. Actor Vondie Curtis Hall is the husband of director Lemmons. Shown at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals.
Rating:
R (For sexuality and language)
Genre:
Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Lions Gate Films

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Cast

Samuel L. Jackson
as Louis Batiste
Meagan Good
as Cisely Batiste
Vondie Curtis-Hall
as Julian Grayraven
Lynn Whitfield
as Roz Batiste
Jurnee Smollett
as Eve Batiste
Roger Guenveur Smith
as Lenny Mereaux
Allen Toussaint
as Proprietor
Branford Marsalis
as Harry Delacroix
Lisa Nicole Carson
as Matty Mereaux
Victoria Rowell
as Stevie Hobbs
Debbi Morgan
as Mozelle Batiste Delacroix
Jake Smollett
as Poe Baptiste
Tamara Tunie
as Narrator
Billie Neal
as Ghost of Original Eve
Leonard Thomas
as Maynard
Ethel Ayler
as Gran Mere
Carol Sutton
as Madame Renard
Jake Smollet
as Poe Batiste
Ron Flagge
as Vendor
Afonda Colbert
as Henrietta
Lola Dalferes
as Lynette
Oneal A. Isaac
as Bus Driver
Julian Dalcour
as Bartender
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News & Interviews for Eve's Bayou

Critic Reviews for Eve's Bayou

All Critics (51) | Top Critics (16)

Subplots are woven stealthily into the story, taking the pressure off the central drama, allowing it to be affecting rather than melodramatic, and heightening the atmosphere of the lush Louisiana setting.

Full Review… | March 19, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A sparkling directorial debut.

Full Review… | April 26, 2007
New York Observer
Top Critic

An intensely emotional drama that mixes elements of Southern Gothic with the kinds of characters and tensions that prevail in the plays of Southern writers like Tennessee Williams.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Variety
Top Critic

Writer/director Kasi Lemmons shows sweet judgment here, doesn't caricature or demonise the errant father, and elicits a host of nuanced performances from women of all ages.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A gothic and, for better or worse, poetic memoir about a young girl and her family of Creole aristocrats.

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

In Eve's Bayou, Tennessee goes to Louisiana, and finds a familiar home. Tennessee Williams, that is.

Full Review… | April 12, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Eve's Bayou

A young girl with a philandering father and a psychic aunt comes of age in a Louisiana bayou. Strictly in the tradition of Southern Gothic storytelling, this film falls all too often into cliche -- cliches that anyone familiar with the Southern Gothic genre know all too well. The atmosphere of the film, which most people liked, is created by the soft monologues and the panning scenic shots, but I found the monologues poorly written and detracting from the scene and the connective tissue of the film doesn't do much to advance the central story. Young Jurnee Smollett is quite good, capturing her character's childhood innocence, but her elocution betrays her inexperience, and Lynn Whitfield is responsible for making her monologues feel like departures rather than necessary elements of the story. Overall, this is a basic Southern Gothic film, and if you've seen them all, then you've seen this one.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Kasi Lemmons masterpiece. Amy Vincent's cinematography is just down right beautiful and an all star cast proving real acting strength. It's not so much of the plot but the conflict within the characters. Particularly the young girl Eve Batiste played by Jurnee Smollett. The film really takes you along a journey where I didn't know what was to be expected but everything comes into place perfectly. It's a great film and highly recommended.

Brian R
Brian R

Super Reviewer

Should have received more attention at the time of its release, we have a very good performance by Samuel L. Jackson here.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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