Don’t be fooled by the fireside polemic that opens Callie Khouri’s The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. “Let no man put asunder,” says little Vivi to her blood sisters, honoring the queens that came and went before them while drinking chocolate-as-blood from color-coded goblets. Khouri’s adaptation of Rebecca Wells’s Ya-Ya is nowhere near as emasculatory as her screenplay for Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise yet it’s also nowhere near as empowering. Those looking for severed dicks and the weepy pyrotechnics of Steel Magnolias should look elsewhere. Ya Ya is all not-so-divine secrets and no sisterhood. Past the hee-hee playfulness (see cancer victims jog with their oxygen tanks, watch as three old bittys demystify the roofie) lies a mediocre parent-child emotional fix-em-up. Khouri vastly undervalues the significance of the titular sisterhood; in effect, Vivi’s friends function less as sisters-for-life as they do storyteller planets hee-hawing their way around a clueless mother-daughter team played by Ellen Burstyn and Sandra Bullock. Skeletons rattle a la V.C. Andrews, revealing a legacy of dead first-boyfriends, unexplained feces, projectile vomit and a spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child moment that has Vivi (Ashley Judd, doing a fine impersonation of a younger Burstyn) wink-wink whipping her three children in front of her two black servants. Khouri has no real patience for the history and origins of the Ya-Ya sisterhood, successfully simplifying race and reducing female solidarity to an oh-so-cute exchange of tragic hugs and witty confrontations. Functional yet tediously mediocre, Ya Ya even has one of its characters spell out its obvious mantra: think about the good times.
- Callie Khouri
- Mark Andrus, Callie Khouri
- Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Fionnula Flanagan, James Garner, Cherry Jones, Ashley Judd, Shirley Knight, Angus MacFadyen, Maggie Smith
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