Deliver Us From Eva Turns 20 — The Gabrielle Union Rom-Com Is Even More Chaotic Than You Remember

Welcome to Love Like This?, a romance column where we, Kathleen Newman-Bremang and Ineye Komonibo, revisit some of the most romantic — or not, in hindsight  — scenes in Black film and TV history.
Photo: Focus/Kobal/Shutterstock.
Deliver Us From Eva turns 20 this month. Twenty years ago, in February 2003, the comedy starring Gabrielle Union and LL Cool J hit theaters, aiming to capture a romance-hungry Valentine’s Day audience and cement its place in the Black rom-com canon. It was Union’s first lead role in a romantic comedy (until then, she’d perfected playing meangirl sidekicks or scheming sidepieces) and LL’s most mainstream foray into the genre (long before he’d woo us and Queen Latifah in Last Holiday and after he was rap’s reigning ladies man). Respectively, they play Eva, an uptight meddling older sister and hard ass restaurant inspector, and Ray, the hotshot player that Eva’s brothers-in-law hire to date her in order to get her out of their lives. Directed and co-written by Gary Hardwick, the film is a twist on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and features a notable supporting cast — including Essence Atkins, Robinne Lee, and Meagan Good as Eva’s sisters — that, along with Union and LL Cool J, elevate a shaky script and predictable punchlines. It’s the power of Union and Cool J as a pair that pushes the movie from a standard early 2000s comedy full of jokes that don’t hold up and cardboard female characters to a watchable, fun romance that proved these stars were born to fall in love onscreen. 
The duo was praised by critics for their individual performances and for their collective chemistry, but Deliver Us From Eva overall was met with mixed reactions. Variety wrote that after a slow start, it “gradually settles into a more appealing groove as a glossy date-movie.” 
Roger Ebert gave it one thumb up and two stars. And TV Guide said “co-writer-director Gary Hardwick sometimes lets Eva's character slip from benevolent dictator into distasteful monster.” This description of Eva isn’t wrong; she’s insufferable for about three quarters of the film, but it’s Union’s prowess as a leading lady that kept us watching, and rooting for her. Then LL Cool J did that thing he does with his lips and, well, it was a wrap. Twenty years later, Deliver Us From Eva may fall into formulaic romance traps with tropes that feel forced instead of fresh, but one thing is certain even all these years later: Gabrielle Union and LL Cool J should kiss in every movie. The sheer strength of their more romantic scenes saves the film of itself. 
So, for Valentine’s Day, Black History Month, and Deliver Us From Eva’s 20th anniversary, we’re revisiting the classic film and deciding once and for all: would we really want a love like Eva and Ray have? And if a relationship starts on a lie, is there any way to come back from that and live happily ever after? 
The Scene: Eva’s brothers-in-law have faked Ray’s death, hoping to force their annoying sister-in-law out of their lives for good by getting Ray out of the picture so she can accept a job offer in Chicago. Until the brothers’ despicable plan, Ray and Eva are happily dating, Eva none the wiser than their relationship started with deception: Ray only dated her to collect $5,000 and drive her out of town. The problem? Ray caught feelings, and after he breaks his way out of the basement the brothers locked him in (seriously, these three are the most trash men in cinematic history), he confesses the truth to Eva at his own fake funeral. The film’s final scene is Ray’s grand attempt at winning Eva back. He rides into her new workplace in Chicago on a horse (not a metaphor for this Prince Charming-ass gesture — he literally rides in on a horse) and declares his love. Ray quit his job, is moving to Chicago, and he bought her the horse he rode in on. “Now you listen to me,” he says urgently, while Eva pets her new horse, and a crowd has formed around them. “You said love is a choice. Well, I love you, and I’m not leaving. I’m going to show up at your job every day. I’m going to send you gifts and tell you I’m sorry until you understand that I will not live without you.” The speech (albeit a little creepy) works, the couple makes out in the middle of the street, and rides off into the Chicago sunset on horseback. 

You’re throwing my whole day off because of romance? Please. We gotta make the grand gesture make sense. You want me to get on a horse in my good work outfit?


Does The Grand Gesture Hold Up? 

Ineye Komonibo: No, sorry. The whole relationship is a lie. I understand what he’s trying to do with the horse and the grand gestureI gotta show her that this relationship is real! — but for me, if I were her, I’d be like, “Sir, you are wasting your time.” It’s embarrassing for everyone involved. 
Kathleen Newman-Bremang: You know me. I’ve said this a million times in this column: my number one grand gesture rule is DO NOT show up at someone’s workplace. 
IK: Why does it always happen at work? [laughs] 
KNB: This man shows up on a horse at her job! She’s working!  It’s so embarrassing, and I would be mortified. BUT, I do like the intention behind it. He knows that she loves horses, so he bought her a freaking horse. And as a grand gesture, I think it’s actually really beautiful that he put that care and thought into it. I also liked how the scene ended, with him riding on the back of the horse, and her in control in the front. It was a cute visual! 
IK: It’s impractical. The older I get, the more I dislike things like this. It’s messy! Who’s going to clean up the horse poop? Where is the horse going? Like, I’m at work, I’ve got stuff to do. You’re throwing my whole day off because of romance? Please. We gotta make the grand gesture make sense. You want me to get on a horse in my good work outfit?
KNB: Not the work outfit! OK, but he did say he got her a stable just outside of town, so that’s where the horse is going. And for her, she does love horses, so it makes sense. But yeah, the work part does not hold up. She just rode away in the middle of the day? Ma’am, you still got bills to pay! The logistics are off. 

Could It Be Me? 

KNB: This movie hinges on the classic rom-com trope of it all being a bet at first, but then they actually fall in love. She’s All That, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Dayswe’ve seen it before. I don’t mind this trope, and I do think that you can come back from a silly mistake at the beginning of a relationship. Yes, it was all based on a lie, and that’s not ideal, but I don’t hate it as a trope. In all of the other examples and in Deliver Us From Eva, the bet was placed before they knew each other. And as soon as he got to know her, he fell in love with her. That’s enough to win someone over! I think it would win me over. 
IK: This is one trope that I absolutely hate. I love a fake dating trope where everyone involved knows what’s going on. Even enemies-to-lovers, which you know I’m staunchly against, is better than this. I cannot stand liars, so I would never be able to believe him again. Even if he said, “This is how I feel now,” or even if he bought me a horse…all that’s cool, but you’re a liar. You lied. Period. 

LL Cool J can KISS. Those lips? Licking them is his signature move and every time he did it, I almost fell off my couch. 

kathleen newman-bremang
KNB: As usual for me, this probably would have worked on me. If someone bought me something that I had always wanted, and they listened to me and knew what was important to me, I think I would cave. AND he moved to Chicago where her new job is just for her! All of those things would at least have me saying, in that moment, “OK, let’s give it a shot.” 
IK: He did all of that without even discussing it with Eva, and if it was me, I would have a lot of questions. I’m the type of person who needs you to hear what your thought process was, why you did all that — but even after you explain it to me, it’s probably not going to matter. 
I would have been so pissed. Maybe this is speaking to my own trust issues, but I would never be able to believe that he actually cared about me. At my core, I know that I’d always think he was being fake with me. To know that the relationship started on a lie, that his initial interest was a farce, and that he was getting paid and he couldn’t tell the truth about that early on… it’s messed up. He carried it on too long.
KNB: I agree that he carried it on too long. The ideal in this situation would be that as soon as you start catching feelings, you say “Whoa, whoa. This is real now, and I’m sorry, but this is how it started. I’m giving them their money back, and I understand if you never want to talk to me again.” And then you have to just let her come to you. I understand that part, and maybe it’s because I watch too many rom-coms, but I’d be like, if Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachel Leigh Cook can make it work, and Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson can make it work, and Gabrielle Union and LL Cool J can make it work, so can we! I’m delusional. 

Rate The Kiss: 

IK: Ten!!! 10. 10. 10!!!! The amount of times I saw tongue in this film??? Baby, I loved it. Tens for every kiss! 
KNB: I don’t think this movie holds up overall for me, but the kissing redeemed it. The romantic bits were good! I will say, though, that the last kiss isn’t the best one. That’s a running theme in this column: the final kiss is never as good as the first one. My favorite was the kiss at the mayor’s event. And the love scene!! No notes! I thought their chemistry in those moments was FIRE. LL Cool J can KISS. Those lips? Licking them is his signature move and every time he did it, I almost fell off my couch. 
IK: He looked like he was hungry. And that’s what I want to see: a starving man! That man is so good at what he does. I don’t know why LL didn’t just pivot to doing rom-coms exclusively. I understand that there’s money in NCIS or CSI-whatever, but we need him back in a romance. 
KNB: I also didn’t realize how tall he is. Gabrielle Union is tall, but he was towering over her. Height is very important in kiss scenes, and I think they complimented each other perfectly. 

Would You Want A Love Like This?

KNB: OK, this is my first time watching this movie, and I just have to say that I hated Eva at first. She is a horribly written character. Clearly, this movie was written and directed by men. I know it’s based on The Taming Of The Shrew, but Eva is the epitome of a shrill stereotype of a workaholic uptight woman; she cares about her career and is responsible, so therefore she has a stick up her ass and is the bane of all men’s existence. I hated that. It’s a very misogynistic script until about the last act, and there were moments I was like, what am I watching? But when it comes to the love we saw between Eva and Ray, I liked their dynamic. Eva’s never been like this with any other man. He made her open up in ways I don’t think she ever has before. He’s the person that can get her out of her more toxic traits. If it was me, and I never laugh, never have fun, never tell a joke, and this person comes a long and brings all of that out of me? Yes, they lied, but they are promising they will make it up to me, and that’s the only thing they lied about? I think it’s a love worth fighting for. I don’t know if it would work and that trust could be able to be earned back, but I would give it a chance. 
IK: It’s all a lie! He moved to her on some fraudulence. How could I trust anything else that he says? You bought that horse? Really? With your own money? Is it even a horse? How would I know? You’re a liar, man.

I’m very against the idea of training a man or making him realize that he needs to get his life together. We’re all grown ups. All in all, I like that Eva was happy, but she needs to go find her husband. It’s not Ray. 

ineye komonibo
KNB: I like it when a man’s energy is, “You make me want to be a better man.” Yes, men should be together on their own, and they shouldn’t need a woman to get their shit together, but I like that Ray sees Eva being so successful and on her shit. And instead of feeling threatened or insecure, he thinks I need to step up to that level. He doesn’t want to dim her light. He sees her shining so bright and thinks, I need to also find that light within me. He showed up as a trash ass man and met her and was like, “Oh damn, I need to step it up.” I also like when a couple evens each other out, personality-wise. She was so serious, and he was so silly, I liked that dynamic. He brought the silliness out of her, and she made him take his life more seriously. I think that’s a good love: a love that is beneficial to them both. 
IK: Obviously Eva’s life was difficult, and she had to be hard to protect her sisters, so I do like when a man is able to bring a woman’s softness. Still, it’s a no for me. He’s broke. And even if Ray is not broke anymore, we all remember how he suddenly came into some money. We have to keep going back to that origin story. This man did something really sinister and mean because he was broke, so his morals and ethics are therefore in question. I don’t respect him as a person. Even if there’s love there, he’s a shady person. 
Honestly, Eva should have taken their relationship as proof that she can fall in love and be a bit softer and applied that lesson to her next relationship so she could meet somebody better. She shouldn’t accept a bum just because she fell in love. There are other people out there — she can still find somebody else who already has it together, someone who is going to be real with her from the start. To be honest, I’m very against the idea of training a man or making him realize that he needs to get his life together. We’re all grown ups. All in all, I like that Eva was happy, but she needs to go find her husband. It’s not Ray. 

This movie hinges on the classic 'it was a bet' trope... maybe I watch too many rom-coms, but I’d be like, if Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson can make it work, and Gabrielle Union and LL Cool J can make it work, so can we! I’m delusional. 

kathleen newman-bremang

Is This Couple Still Together? 

IK: NO. Absolutely not. He’s always going to be trying to find another way to finesse instead of finding a real job. 
KNB: He has a job! He sells meat. 
IK: Oh girl. Whatever! There’s going to be a time when the honeymoon’s over, Eva’s softness fades. The Eva that Ray first met is going to reemerge, and he’s gonna be looking at her like, “Why are you still acting like that after all this time?” She is a spicy person. That’s just her character. And he’s going to get frustrated because that is not what he signed up for longterm.
KNB: Wow, I completely disagree with you! I think that’s exactly what he signed up for. He knew exactly who she was going into it; he knew she was crazy as hell and he’s ready to put up with her bullshit. He heard her brother-in-law talking shit. He saw her being nasty to people at her job. He knows she’s the worst. and he loves her anyway. I actually think that they are still together, or they are divorced and co-parenting. Either way, they’re in each other’s lives forever. 
IK: There is real chemistry there, so I could honestly see them getting divorced then flirting with the idea of getting back together over and over. And their kid will be like, “Oh my god, my mom and dad are dating again.” But they never actually reconcile. 
KNB: What I think may drive them apart is that Eva has more of your energy. I don’t know if she’ll ever be able to trust him again. The man is going to be groveling for years, but I don’t think she’ll ever be able to get over his one big mistake. I do think he is the love of her life, though. Part of the attraction for him when he was a player is that he looked at women as a challenge — not great! —  and I think he sees getting a great woman like Eva to love him as a challenge, and he’ll love getting to do that every day. 
IK: But sometimes you need a hug! You don’t want to fight every day. Every fight, she’s going to bring up the lie and how he did her dirty — and rightfully so. And he’s going to be like, “It’s been 10 years!” She’s someone who has no problem scrapping with men, and I get that because I used to be that person, but I got tired. I don’t know that Eva will get tired. It will be constant fighting. Like, don’t you want peace?
KNB: You’re right. This is a couple that will never know peace.

More from Movies

R29 Original Series