Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
3 out of 5 stars
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This sprawling generational drama features fantastic performances and examines some very strong themes. But it's also surprisingly thin plot-wise, with a convoluted and indulgent structure badly in need of a dispassionate editor. At the centre of the story is Sidda (Bullock) an up-and-coming New York playwright who gets in trouble with her tough-minded mother Vivi (Burstyn) when she speaks her mind about her tormented childhood. So Vivi's childhood friends--the self-proclaimed Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Smith, Flanagan and Knight)--kidnap Sidda and take her down home to Louisiana to help her sort out her relationship with Vivi ... and of course her entire past.

With this cast and premise, the film could have been an unbearable chick flick, but writer-director Khouri (Thelma & Louise) avoids this by keeping to the bones of the story, concentrating on universal themes of childhood, love and loyalty, and having a couple of strong male characters intricately involved (and superbly played by Garner, MacFayden and Smith). This lets the rest of the amazing cast shine at what they do best: trying to steal scenes from each other. Burstyn and Judd, as the same character at different stages of life, are the standouts. Still, there are serious problems in the logic department--trying to mentally fill in the gaps is very distracting. Some plot points are unexplained and therefore lost entirely, while others feel not nearly as dramatic as they're built up to be. And the multi-flashback, spanning-the-generations structure is very confusing, as every character is played by at least two actors. And there are a lot of them! But along the way to the touchy-feely finale, there's some far-superior comedy and drama for us to sink ourselves into.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 29.Aug.02

dir-scr Callie Khouri
with Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, James Garner, Maggie Smith, Fionnula Flanagan, Shirley Knight, Angus MacFadyen, David Lee Smith, Gina McKee, Cherry Jones, David Rasche
release US 7.Jun.02; UK 27.Sep.02
02/US 1h57

Silly hat club. The Ya-Yas induct Sidda into the sisterhood (Burstyn, Smith, Flanagan, Bullock, Knight)...

bullock burstyn judd garner
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... mothers, daughters "My husband Bob was the only male in the audience. Gee, don't guys want to see movies about family relationships? Or maybe one that might give them an insight to how women get along? I have heard talk of Oscar nominations for Judd's performance. The movie starts out with four young girls, who form the Ya-Ya Sisterhood - and bounces to the present, where Bullock is a writer making observations about her childhood, and the interviewer interprets it incorrectly in the article, prompting a huge fight with her mother (Burstyn), founder of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. The co-members are attempting to mend the gap between mom and daughter, so they kidnap her and 'enlighten' the daughter about the mother, figuring if she understands where the mom was coming from, they would understand why she is like she is. I have to say this movie was good - I liked it, enjoyed the nutty characters and liked to see that friendships can work so well into old age - kids growing up, grandchildren, etc. Garner played his part well - the husband who was more a bemused observer, who loved his wife in spite of everything. I feel this movie catches the quirkiness of family relationships. Okay, so maybe this was more aimed at chicks, but I did like it and so did Bob. It made me wish my mom were still alive - so maybe I could set things straight with her. I guess you should see this with your mom. The movie made me laugh and cry all at once - not many can do that." --Laurie T, Minneapolis 17.Jun.02
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall