Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood

"Weak"

Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood Review


All book-to-film adaptations lose something in the translation, but the narrative gaps are simply insurmountable in the two-hankie estrogen fest "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."

Brimming with talented actresses, none of whom steps on another's toes in across-the-board strong performances, this emotionally genuine bonding picture based on Rebecca Wells' novel stars Sandra Bullock as Sidda, a bitter New York playwright hijacked into visiting her Louisiana family home and her alcoholic mother, a Southern drama queen played by Ellen Burstyn.

Mother's life-long friends, who have collectively called themselves the "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" since a mock-voodoo "ceremony" when they were young girls, have decided it's time for the two to bury the hatchet after a lifetime of sniping.

Triggered by Bullock's reading of a meticulously maintained Ya-Ya scrapbook, tales are told by the other Ya-Yas (Maggie Smith, Fionnula Flanagan and Shirley Knight playing aged and eccentric Southern belles), begetting flashbacks of Mom's boo-hoo hard life backstory. Soon Sidda learns that before becoming a walking histrionic hyperbole, Vivi (Burstyn in the present, Ashley Judd in the past) lost a lover in World War II and had a major bout with clinical depression, which is supposed to make the audience and Sidda forgive her for being a bloody gawdawful mother.

Afraid we'll hate Vivi, writer-director Callie Khouri (writer of "Thema and Louise") sugar-coats and minimizes her parental egotism and abuse, showing four or five good memories of Sidda's childhood for every bad one and launching into melodramatics to cover up serious deficiencies in the plot.

In the 1950s we see Judd's Vivi being a loving mom until she explodes in anger one day, screaming and throwing plateware in a scene that is meant to demonstrate a change in her behavior. But what brought it on? Don't expect to find answers here. But do expect to be presented with James Garner as Sidda's supposedly wonderful father, who never does a thing to protect his children from psycho-Vivi.

The film almost entirely ignores the fact that Sidda has a brother and sister except as they figure into these childhood flashbacks, which weave a completely out-of-whack timeline. If Sidda was 10 or so in the late 1950s/early 1960s, as seen in her memories, why is she only Sandra Bullock's age in what is clearly the present? By my math she be pushing 50 at least.

Sidda seems to know everything about the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (she recognizes the scrapbook and knows details about the ceremonies they performed as kids) yet she knows nothing whatsoever about any other aspect of her mother's life -- even the stuff we know she witnessed. She's none too bright either. Despite being told her mom's first love was in WWII and was a brother of one of the Ya-Yas (so she certainly would have met him if he were still alive), she still can't put two and two together about what happened to the guy.

Khouri doesn't even try to identify which Ya-Ya is which in the scenes of their youth and the film is plagued by random episodes that lead nowhere, as when the aged Ya-Yas pick up Vivi in a convertible and tell her they're going somewhere important. The scene ends without them arriving anywhere and the trip is never mentioned again. A similar problem arises in the character of Wiletta (Leslie Silva), an African-American maid of a rich relative who exists only to demonstrate that the Ya-Yas are Southerners but not bigots. The character simply pops up from time to time in unrelated scenes without reason or explanation.

Aimed directly at the "Beaches"/"Steel Magnolias"/"Fried Green Tomatoes" demographic, "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" fully expects to get by on its heartstring pulling and its heartfelt performances. The actresses so clearly enjoy sinking their teeth into these sincere, sometimes daffy Southern souls that it's truly a pity they couldn't have a coherent script to work from.

But this adaptation can't even manage a reasonable finale, glossing over real interpersonal problems with the reveal of a big secret that's supposed to make everything OK.

I don't mind having my heartstrings pulled, but don't treat me like a fool.



Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Facts and Figures

Run time: 116 mins

In Theaters: Friday 7th June 2002

Box Office USA: $69.5M

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures, All Girl Productions, Gaylord Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Fresh: 63 Rotten: 81

IMDB: 5.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Siddalee 'Sidda' Walker, as Viviane Joan 'Vivi' Abbott Walker, as 'Teensy' Melissa Whitman, as Shepard James 'Shep' Walker, as Grandma 'Buggy' Abbott, as Younger Vivi Abbott Walker, as Caro Eliza Bennett, as Necie Rose Kelleher, as Connor McGill

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.