Directed by Callie Khouri, starring Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Fionnula Flanagan, James Garner, Ashley Judd, Shirley Knight, Angus MacFadyen and Maggie Smith.
Predominantly based on Rebecca Wells' best-selling novel, 'Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood' marks the directorial debut of 'Thelma and Louise' writer Callie Khouri. With credentials like these, it should have been the ultimate chick flick for the noughties - and then some - but unfortunately the result is a lukewarm offering, only made watchable by the strength of some of the performances.
Sandra Bullock plays New York based playwright Sidda, whose revelations about her childhood in a Time Magazine profile spark a drama-queen-style row with her Louisiana mother, Vivi. A FedEx fuelled exchange of burnt and cut out photos - culminating in Vivi sending a copy of her will with Sidda's name scrawled out and Sidda sending an invite to her upcoming nuptials with the location and date crossed out - gets the pair to a point where they are no longer speaking. Like mother, like daughter: geddit?
Then, a Rohypnol-assisted abduction by Vivi's life-long friends (the Ya Yas) speeds Sidda to a location where she can begin to reflect on their relationship. Corners must be cut in converting a 540-page tome to 116 minutes on screen, but the merits of promoting a date rape drug as a means to an end are debatable… On the other hand, the later choice of swapping Sidda's childhood memory of an elephant ride for a trip on a biplane is inspired: at least it picked up the pacing.
The flashbacks that reveal the "divine secrets" of the title contribute largely to the slow pace throughout. The story turns on the idea that Sidda's recollection of her childhood abuse doesn't tell the full story; her "misconceptions" are fuelled by her mother's refusal to uncover the skeletons in her closet. It falls to the Ya Ya Sisterhood to put Sidda straight and get the two talking again.
Fionuala Flanagan is fabulous as the brash Teensy, Maggie Smith is hard as nails as the oxygen tank toting Caro, and Sandra Bullock is bland but competent as Sidda. But the real kudos go to Ashley Judd and Ellen Burstyn for their portrayal of the younger and older Vivi, a Southern belle whose ambition and effervescence is quashed by an early marriage to a man who was not her first love.
'Divine Secrets…' is the tale of two women, one trying to learn to live with her past, the other trying to find a way to get on with her future. But somewhere between the Southern twang and the mist that fades to reveal a sometimes not so rosy shared history, there is something missing. This is a soulless film. The tragedy will grip you momentarily – it's much darker on the big screen than it is between the pages – and don't be surprised if you shed a few tears. But where's the passion, where's the sisterhood, where's the Ya Ya?