Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/09/2002

Two out of Five stars
Running Time: 117 mins

Well-made, but frequently boring and predictable drama – a couple of decent performances but the climax doesn’t work and it’s all been done better elsewhere.

There appears to be an unwritten law in Hollywood that states that all dramas involving an ensemble cast of sassy American women have to have long titles such as Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café or How To Make An American Quilt. Or, indeed, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

This, then, is one of those movies, and you can merrily tick off the cliches for the entire length of its running time, safe in the knowledge that you won’t bump into anything remotely original.

Silly Names

Sandra Bullock (wisely dispensing with any attempts at a Southern accent) plays Siddalee Walker (so that’s the “silly names” cliché ticked off early, then), a successful New York playwright.

In a newspaper interview she mentions how she had a traumatic childhood, whereupon her stubborn, tempestuous mother Vivi (Ellen Burstyn) promptly disowns her –in what is probably the film’s best sequence-, despite ‘Sidda’s imminent wedding to Angus McFadyen.

However, the eponymous “Ya-Ya’s” (Vivi’s three best friends –played by Maggie Smith, Fionnula Flannagan and Shirley Knight - with whom she’d made one of those childhood pacts that seem so popular in this kind of movie), take it upon themselves to sort things out, so they kidnap Sidda, take her back to the Deep South and force her to listen to stories of what a great woman Vivi was. Which is where the flashbacks with Ashley Judd come in.

Better Agents Required

The film is, on the whole, well-acted, particularly by Burstyn, Flanagan and Ashley Judd, who really, really needs to get a better agent. The men, as might be expected, don’t have all that much to do, but McFadyen and Garner are both good in support. It’s also very weird hearing Maggie Smith speak with a Southern accent – in fact it’s quite distracting.

In addition to its classy cast, the film’s other chick-flick credentials are impeccable, from director Callie Khouri (who won an Oscar for her Thelma & Louise script) to the source novel by Rebecca Wells (which is apparently quite good if you like that sort of thing).

Blah Blah Sisterhood

However, ultimately it all seems very familiar and is extremely slow in places, prompting the irresistible temptation to make ‘Blah Blah Sisterhood’ jokes. Moreover, the supposedly dramatic climax is extremely weak, especially compared with similar films of the genre.

In short, this is just about watchable thanks to the performances and will doubtlessly appeal to fans of the book, but otherwise you’re probably better off waiting for the video.

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Content updated: 31/10/2014 21:18

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