Divine Secrets of the
Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Review by Ross Anthony

Four young Louisiana girls sneak out one night and perform an odd "made-up" ritual. Donning silly headdresses and standing in candlelit back-forest, they cut their palms and become blood-sisters -- thus begins the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Fast-forward 60-70 years later, Vivian (Burstyn - and head Ya-Ya founder) reads an article in "Time Magazine" in which her daughter (Sandra Bullock) inadvertently tells all about her tragic childhood and dysfunctional mother. The article strikes a rift between the two that sparks the three other Ya-Ya members on a mission to mend.

Thanks to the bold, brash, occasionally tactful, and always caring efforts of the Ya-Ya's (who use the term as a replacement for "amen"); Vivian's daughter relives a childhood full of memories (some good, some bad). Vivian is played by Ashley Judd in the flashbacks. The Ya-Ya's fill in a few cracks between.

Oddly enough, this film screened for the press at the "Cinerama Dome". As I expect LA's famous huge screen to be a wonderful way to see big action or splendid vistas, I was surprised to see how well this cozy bit of southern comfort filled that big screen. Likewise, the big (and small names) deliver big performances under strong character direction. Maggie Smith as the Ya-Ya member with the O2-tank will absolutely crack you up with her crass, then gasp for gas, verbal deportment. And the dialogue, completely undiluted. You'll be waiting on every word. Bullock's character resists any excuses, "I don't care if she was abducted by leprechauns and whacked over the head with their shileighly sticks."

Surprised by the beautiful, delicate, but pepper-spiced script and performances, I didn't want this film to end. But unfortunately, by the 2/3rds mark, the picture begins to overstay its welcome. Perhaps, the removal of a biplane sequence near the end would have helped. There's nothing wrong with this scene, unfortunately, it disturbs the emotive arc on which the film so strongly contours. One other flattener: Needlessly, the sisters make a fuss over a "secret" that when told, is really quite un-surprising. Thus subtracting a few points from the picture's otherwise healthy sense of honesty.

Still, the Ya-Ya's are sweet, charming, caringly irreverent, entertaining, well-spoken, and the picture warm in heart.

  • Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Copyright © 2002. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Fionnula Flanagan, James Garner, Ashley Judd, Shirley Knight, Angus MacFadyen, Maggie Smith.
  • Directed by Callie Khouri.
  • Screenplay by Callie Khouri.
  • Adaptation by Mark Andrus.
  • Based on the Novels ("Ya-Ya" and "Little Altars Everywhere" by Rebecca Wells.
  • Produced by Bonnie Bruckheimer, Hunt Lowry at All Girl/Gaylord/WarnerBros.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:40:58 PDT