Movie Reviews
2:04 pm
Thu May 30, 2002

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

The beauty shop of "Steel Magnolias" now looks like a warm, funny place to me and tiny Chickapenn Parish much more original than I originally thought...

If you’re a daughter yet to figure out your crazy mother, then see "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." You may realize you're not alone, and your mother may be saner than you thought.

Ellen Burstyn plays an eccentric Southern mother to Sandra Bullock's successful but still unsure-of-mom daughter kidnapped for emotional rehab by her mom's three other sisters of the Divine Ya-Ya childhood sorority. Bullock gets a crash course from them in her mother's motivations including the circumstances around mom's breakdown.

The forced Southern accents distracted me, the cute old-sister bit, especially Maggie Smith's accompanying oxygen tank and mediocre gag lines, just didn't make me want to learn any more about the sisters' secrets or get to know mom any more than daughter did already. The beauty shop of "Steel Magnolias" now looks like a warm, funny place to me and tiny Chickapenn Parish much more original than I originally thought.

Younger mom, played by Ashley Judd, never reveals the source of her eventual breakdown other than the loss of her young pilot-fianc? and the sometimes-frustrating job of tending several children. The film seems to rest on the cuteness of the elderly "sisters," but I can't think of a line or situation that isn't cliched or forced. When Maggie Smith, a British actress of surpassing talent, says, "You are the biological fruit of my womb that rotted," I didn't laugh but rather pitied the actress who had to say the line.

There are some endearing aspects such as original music by Bob Dylan ("Waitin' for You") and Lauryn Hill ("Selah") and selections from Alison Krauss, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, and Taj Mahal, among others. And first time director Callie Khouri, who wrote "Thelma and Louise," does know how to create the look of post-depression Louisiana.

Now the director needs to sharpen skills in adapting best-selling novels. No serious damage, however, has been done to the young-girl-in-the-south, early-feminist genre.