Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood Movie Review

Are you disappointed that the Grumpy Old Men franchise died with stars Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon? Never fear. The familiar formula has been slightly doctored, recast, and relocated from Minnesota to Louisiana in Callie Khouri's Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, though Sassy Old Women certainly seems a more appropriate title.

Being neither a mother, daughter, nor woman at all, I acknowledge the fact that I'm not 100% qualified to comment on Sisterhood. I did trudge through it, though, which instantly earns me the type of respect normally bestowed on veterans of a vicious war. Just be warned. A self-proclaimed celebration of the feminine spirit, this story, this film... hell, the actual theater showing this film is no place for any transporter of testosterone.

Ya-Ya boasts a cult literary fan base that rivals that of the comic geeks and sci-fi sickos who slept out for Spider-Man and Episode II. Their armies aren't nearly as large, but their passion for Rebecca Wells' best-selling novel runs just as deep. Wells' story follows four female characters through three different decades, though it starts in the present day with Siddalee Walker (Sandra Bullock).

A N.Y.-based playwright, Sidda pulls the band-aid off of a simmering feud with her mother, Vivi Abbott Walker (Ellen Burstyn), when she throws open the door to the family's skeleton-ridden closet in an interview published in Time magazine. Sidda's "truth hurts" tirade sends self-centered Vivi into a tailspin that her circle of friends, known collectively as the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, seeks to terminate. The renegade Ya-Yas kidnap, drug, and drag Sidda back to Louisiana, hoping some rest and reminiscing will clear her aggressions and trigger the natural flow of affection for her lunatic mom.

Resistance, Sidda learns, is futile. Various flashbacks lead us to believe that when united, the Ya-Ya Sisterhood enjoys invincibility. As children on a trip to Atlanta for the premiere of Gone With the Wind, the young Ya-Yas encounter racism in the home, which they quickly douse with their sharp wit and sassy barbs. They're almost like a miniature Justice League of America. Form of ... a civil rights activist!

Three generations of actresses were recruited to play the Ya-Ya Sisterhood through the years, though the ladies in the Vivi role (Caitlin Wachs, Ashley Judd, and Burstyn) are written the juiciest dilemmas. As aged Ya-Yas, Dame Maggie Smith (a Brit) and Fionnula Flanagan (a Leprechaun) spout sharp one-liners, but they're so focused on delivering them with precision that they forget to maintain their already questionable Southern accents. As a result, the second half of the film - set entirely in Louisiana - loses its Southern ambiance and distinct local panache.

The charming Angus MacFayden actually tugs and tosses his role as Sidda's frustrated fiancée Connor in multiple directions until a character forms from scraps of frustration and anxiety. Poor James Garner is not as successful as Shep Walker, a kindred soul occupying a position underneath Vivi's ten-inch boot heel. The veteran actor, given extremely little to do, couldn't look more bored.

Sisterhood constantly hints at a tragedy in Vivi's past that has resulted in her inability to love. Had Sidda confronted her mother the minute she woke up in the Bayou, there's a chance we might've been saved the time and torture it takes to get to what's ultimately a disappointing conclusion. Instead, a conflict between two people gets resolved by a party of mediators, leaving the feuding family members few options but to kiss, make up, and sweep their past digressions underneath the rug. Therapy? Who needs it? Pour yourself another sloe gin fizz and let the Ya-Yas chase your blues away.

The Ya-Ya DVD includes a number of deleted scenes, notably the sequence where young Vivi is sent to a parochial school and is later rescured by the Ya-Yas. Two commentary tracks add the usual self-congratulatory hokum.

Ta-ta's.


Comments

Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2002

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