Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Deliver Us From Eva: A Film Derivative of The Taming of the Shrew

Deliver Us From Eva. Dir. Gary Hardwick. Perf. Gabrielle Union, L. L. Cool J, Essence Atkins. 2003. DVD. Universal Studios, 2003.

I wish there were more derivatives like this; it recasts Shakespeare in African-American culture. Unlike O, which, as far as I remember, involves African-American culture by way of contrast to white American culture, Deliver Us From Eva is a derivative of The Taming of the Shrew  that sets itself entirely in Black culture in America—or, rather, what passes in Hollywood as Black culture, which isn't quite the same thing.

I also wish this film were better. Even though it has L. L. Cool J, it falls flat. I think part of it is the overall interpretation of the story arc. The younger sisters need to get Eva (our Katherine analogue) out of the way so that they can enjoy their own relationships; the men in those relationships hire Ray to get her to fall in love with him, move away with him, and then be dumped by him in some faraway location. And the idea they all have in mind is that Eva is shrewish because (not to put too fine a point on it) she hasn't had a man sexually. Once she does, the shrewishness will be all gone. I feel that this is not a fair reading of Katherine or of women, and the film suffers as a result.

I've chosen three representative clips to give you a feel for the film. Please note that the material in them, even though I have done some editing to remove more objectionable content, may not be acceptable to all audiences.

Clip One: The men try to persuade Ray to date Eva.

Clip Two: Ray sees Eva's shrewishness at work in her job as health inspector. 

Clip Three: Ray asks Eva on a date.

I'd genuinely like to know your thoughts—and I'm particularly interested in an African-American perspective on this film. Does this reflect or undermine Black culture in America? Does the derivative work? What other Shakespeare plays should find African-American derivative versions? Please add your thoughts to the comments below!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
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Simacuz said...

I loved this movie. I never see any of the faults that others see, and I think that a lot of the criticism comes from the fact that most of the cast is black. The chemistry between the characters is awesome, the comedic timing is perfect, and most importantly, I bought Eva & Ray. I watched The Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor. THAT sucked. I swear white people fall all over themselves to give accolades to their mediocre films while downplaying the skills of black Hollywood, and what's sad is that a lot of us black folks are also buying that. I'm not. This movie was excellent.

kj said...

Thanks so much, Simacuz, for your comments.

First, yes—good parts of the Burton / Taylor Taming stink on ice.

Second, I hope my lack of overall enjoyment of the film isn't predicated on the black cast. I'd like to think more about that and examine my reactions in that light. It's been a while since I saw the film, but I liked the acting mostly--I objected to the overall story arc and the way some of the characters were put together. And I want more—I'm reminded of Romeo and Juliet in Harlem, which is now out as a (very expensive) DVD. The more we have, the better--and the more comparisons we can make.

As I think about that, would you care to chime in on some of my other questions? Does this reflect or undermine Black culture in America? Does the derivative work? What other Shakespeare plays should find African-American derivative versions?

Thanks again!


Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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