Eve's Bayou

1997, Movie, R, 109 mins

Review

EVE'S BAYOU
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After a string of second-fiddle roles in such films as THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, actress Kasi Lemmons steps behind the camera for this Southern Gothic tale of a troubled African-American family. "I was 10 the summer I killed my father," the adult Eve states at the outset, and what follows is a long look back to the summer of 1962 and the events that led up to that dreadful moment. For young Eve (Jurnee Smollett), who idolizes her father (Samuel L. Jackson), a successful doctor in a small Louisiana town, "killing" him really means coming to terms with the kind of man he really is: a suave charmer who blithely cheats on his glamorous wife (Lynn Whitfield) and who may be capable of still more sinister transgressions. As Eve comes closer to the truth about her father, she also begins to develop her gift of second sight, which she shares with her colorful, thrice-widowed Aunt Mozelle (Debbi Morgan). This may be the Deep South on the brink of the turbulent civil rights movement, but you'd never know it: Lemmons has boldly reimagined Southern African-American life in the terms of glossy, Hollywood melodrama. She's an adventurous, occasionally reckless filmmaker who deploys a full arsenal of cinematic flourishes, but Lemmons' lack of restraint gets in the way of her storytelling. Too often the deep thoughts of Eve's adult voice-over are as overwrought as entries in an adolescent's diary. Lemmons' focus on strong female characters, and her willingness to ignore accepted notions of "black filmmaking" are powerful assets, but one can't help wishing the film as a whole lived up to its initial promise. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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