The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

"Chick flick" is a term used (often derisively) to describe movies oriented towards women. They usually include lots of talk about relationships and crying. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, adapted from the selfsame novel and Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells, falls squarely into the category of the so-called chick flick. What is disappointing is that this film had the potential to transcend the genre, but fails to do so. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a group of four Southern women, friends since they were children. Now on in years, they band together to try to repair the relationship between Vivi (Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream, The Yards) and her daughter Sidda (Sandra Bullock, Murder By Numbers, Miss Congeniality).

Sidda is a playwright, and granted TIME magazine an interview that was extremely unflattering towards Vivi. The two are not on speaking terms, and Vivi's friends Teensy (Fionnula Flanagan, The Others, The Arturo Sandoval Story), Caro (Maggie Smith, Gosford Park, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), and Necie (Shirley Knight, The Salton Sea, Angel Eyes) drug and kidnap Sidda and bring her back to the South to try to mend fences. They believe that Sidda harbors misguided hatred towards Vivi, and they want to tell Sidda about Vivi's life, so that she may fully understand her mother. This sets up a series of flashbacks, and for the remainder of the film, adapter/director Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise) and co-adapter Marc Andrus (Life as a House, As Good As It Gets) jump back and forth in time.

Divine Secrets is a mixed bag. There are plenty of good and bad things about the movie, and sometimes the good things are bad and vice versa. First is the music, supervised by T-Bone Burnett. Burnett is the same person behind the wonderful soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou? and here he again assembles an impressive mix of eclectic, obscure pop tunes that help to personify the movie. The caliber of acting is also superb. One of the ongoing tragedies of Hollywood is the lack of good (or even decent) roles for more mature actresses. Four of the primary roles in Divine Secrets go to four incredible actresses (especially Burstyn), unfortunately there is not enough screen time for everybody. Ashley Judd (High Crimes, Someone Like You) also puts in a good role, something she hasn't done in a while. This is also a great role for Bullock, who proves she can actually act when not in a lame romantic comedy.

The male actors do not fare as well. James Garner (Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Space Cowboys) plays Vivi's husband Shep, and his character is nothing but a shell. Sidda's fiance Connor (Angus MacFayden, Second Skin, Styx) is a little better, but not by much. They just have no personality when compared to the women, who are all Southern fireballs. Their acting frequently skirts the line of the histrionic, and although it is in the spirit of fun, it becomes tiresome. Lots of yelling is not necessarily good acting, and the spunky Southern stereotype can only go so far. The basic story is not original, and is easy to see through. It ends up raising more questions than it answers. What about Sidda's siblings? Where was Shep years ago when Vivi was having problems?

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 56 minute, Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, language, and brief sensuality.

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