Running Time: 116 mins
The Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a schoolgirl fraternity of four friends, Vivi (Burstyn), Teensey (Fionnula Flanagan), Necie (Shirley Knight) and Caro (Smith). The action picks up decades after the founding of the sisterhood when Vivi's daughter Sidda (Bullock) is interviewed by Time magazine before the opening of her Broadway play. She spills the beans on her mother and her dysfunctional childhood. Vivi is hurt and angry by the article. Her Ya-Ya friends come to the rescue by kidnapping Sidda from New York and telling her a few home truths back home in the deep South.
The sometimes-fraught mother/ daughter relationship has been fertile ground for the cinema for decades. Even though this film is based on Rebecca Well's very popular and poignant novels of the same name and it has a stella cast, it is not in the major league.
For starters Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood cannot work out its genre. The movement from comedy to drama is fine, but the fantasy elements in some overly staged scenes don't help up engage with the story. Secondly
Vivi's big secret is alluded to so early and plays out for so long that the eventual revelation lacks the sort of punch the film needs to sustain our
interest. Indeed, the lack of dramatic tension throughout Divine Secrets of
the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is its major flaw. The books were explosive, but this
film adaptation is a whimper rather than a bang. Director Callie Khouri should have kept the pace more brisk.
There are many pleasing performances, though Maggie Smith's Southern accent leaves something to be desired, and John Bailey's photography is stunning.
In the end, however, the hysteria of this girl's version of Dead Poets Society doesn't warrant the time, talent and trouble to which everyone has gone. A missed opportunity.
Richard Leonard SJ