Rated R - Running time: 1:49 - Released 11/7/97

This is the story of a wealthy black family in a small Louisiana town in the early '60s; of secrets, scandals, and voodoo, immersed in the dark, sun-dappled bayous of Cajun America. It is an engaging tale, frought with psychology and pathos.

The story centers around the experiences of 10-year-old Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett) and her older sister Cicely (Meagan Good), who compete for the affections of their beloved father, Louis (Samuel L. Jackson). Louis is the town's doctor, a very attractive, dashing man who has a propensity for having affairs with his female patients — although he claims to love his wife, Roz (Lynn Whitfield), whom he describes as the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

The story begins when Eve witnesses a liaison between her father and a local woman not known for her class or fidelity to her husband. Eve tearfully interrupts them, and Louis talks to her for a few minutes and thinks the episode is over. But Eve is on to what her father is doing, and from then on, watches him like a hawk.

Louis's psychic sister Mozelle (Debbi Morgan) has the gift of seeing the future, and runs a successful business telling fortunes, although she failed to predict the deaths of her own three husbands, who continually haunt her thoughts throughout the film. She is convinced that she's a jinx, and resigns herself to the notion that she cannot ever marry again. But out of nowhere comes a mysterious, attractive artist named Grayraven (Vondie Curtis Hall), who needs her services but has no money to pay. He paints her picture, and the two fall in love. Now she must decide whether to subject him to the danger of being her husband.

Meanwhile, Louis's habitual dalliances continue to upset Eve, but when it starts to involve sister Cicely, Eve has had enough. She takes desperate measures, enlisting another spiritual entrepreneur (Diahann Carroll), who helps Eve seek retribution against her dad with a voodoo curse — and it all backfires.

This movie, written and directed by Kasi Lemmons, is really two separate stories: that of Eve and her conflicting feelings toward her father, and of Mozelle's ongoing relationship problems. It is very well acted and very well directed, with a great blues soundtrack. The dark complexities of this family's story are intriguing, although the plot seems to meander a bit at times; it seems a long time before the film gets to the point. But all the characters are very real and well-defined, especially Eve's. I think Smollett is likely to get an Oscar nomination for this, as she should. ****½

Copyright 1997 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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