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Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd
Director: Callie Khouri
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 116 Minutes
Release Date: June 2002
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Caitlin Wachs, Cherry Jones, David Rasche, Angus MacFadyen, Ellen Burstyn, Fionnula Flanagan, Maggie Smith

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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4.  Dustin Putman read the review movie review

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

If you're psychologically messed up can't get a date, can't make friends, can't keep a job because of your neuroses you've got to blame someone don't you? Who's the obvious target? Your parents! Psychologists are frequently the butt of jokes made about them by people who think that all these professionals have to say is, "Und how vas your childhood...did you hate your muzzer?" While our parents often really are to blame for our emotional problems, what good does it do to point the finger at them? You won't get rid of your shticklach that way and they may not even be around any longer for you to get some comeuppance with them. In Callie Khouri's movie "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," adapted from two novels of Rebecca Wells, Sidda (Sandra Bullock), a successful playwright, gave an interview to Time magazine in which she accused her mother, Vivi (Ellen Burstyn) of various improprieties in upbringing. When Vivi read the article, she emotionally disowned the lass, even sending Sidda some family pictures with Sidda's photos cut out.

"Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" has a stunning cast of performers who repeated get roles despite (or, in fact because of) their age, namely Ellen Burstyn as the once drug- and alcohol-addicted mom, James Garner as the passive and saintly dad, Shirley Knight and Maggie Smith as childhood friends of Vivi who in one pre-pubescent rite around a campfire pledged a blood-defined sisterhood with one another, calling themselves the Ya-Ya's. Determined to stick together through life, the now-elderly women set out to honor their pledge, by getting Sidda and Vivi to make up and be friends.

The plot is a dandy one to work with and because the emphasis is almost wholly on the women (men are there mostly as decoration, particularly the handsome Angus MacFadyen as Sidda's fianc‚ Connor), "Ya-Ya" has been called a chick-flick. However the story goes hither and thither from childhood experiences (most powerfully a scene in which the drug-crazed Vivi takes a strap to Sidda for no rational purpose whatever) to the women as adults that a genuine connective thread is lost. What's more there is so little similarity between the younger Vivi played by the beautiful Ashley Judd and the older gal as Ellen Burstyn that one can't be blamed for confusing the women, who at times seem interchangeable. As for the notion of "chick- flicks," I don't see the point in labeling or separating stories by gender genres, nor could I ever understand the practice of teachers in junior high school to assign summer reading as two lists: one for boys, the other for girls. Don't we men want to know how the other half lives? What they think? What turns them on?

Though Roger Ebert holds that there isn't a believable moment in the film, perhaps the Chicago-based reviewer (like me) has no experience with Southern belles who despite the homogenization of America still act in ways that may be incomprehensible to us northerners. Believability is not the problem. The women are a pleasure to watch. But a more straightforward narrative would have been helpful.

Copyright © 2002 Harvey Karten

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