Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Bomb Rating: 

It's nice to know, at least if the film is any indication, that lifelong problems and seething resentment are easily cured by a good hug.

In the self-aggrandizing, simplistic, self-help culture we live in nowadays, it's not surprising that people would cull such meaning from a book like Rebecca Wells's "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." It's nice to know, at least if the film is any indication, that lifelong problems and seething resentment are easily cured by a good hug. People want so desperately to believe this that they'll devour any crappy book or movie that claims it to be true. And as any publisher knows, the best selling self-help books are almost always the shortest, simplest and easiest to read. Unfortunately, I've found that attempting to solve deep-seated resentment and psychological scarring with an application of facile platitudes usually results in beatings and/or gunfire. Only then can the healing begin.

This movie has no idea what it wants to be. Is it the story of a daughter, Sidda (Sandra Bullock), who doesn't understand her mother, Vivi (Ellen Burstyn)? Is it the story of the lifelong friendship of a group of women who call themselves the "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" from early on? Is it the story of Vivi and how, as a young woman (Ashley Judd), she faces tragedy and disappointment? Or is it simply an advisory from the Louisiana Board of Tourism to avoid their state like the plague because all the people in it are clinically insane?

I don't hate women's films more than any other genre, but is it necessary to populate this fictional canvas with castrated men? Let's take James Garner. His character, Shep the Nutless, is Vivi's second husband. Though she doesn't really love him, Vivi marries Shep anyway. Shep loves Vivi with all his heart, and even though she treats him like crap, he hangs around Vivi for years and years. Toward the end of the film, Sidda calls Shep a saint. Naturally, Vivi eventually realizes what a great guy he is. Could there be anything more depressing than the thought of this gelded dumbass quietly enduring years and years of psychological torture at the hands of this selfish, freakish Southern debutante -- only to finally get some nooky when Vivi is an old hag?

What I want to know is this: Was it news to Vivi that her daughter was unhappy with her? Doesn't that element of surprise by itself suggest that Vivi is completely out of touch? One imagines that being this woman's daughter was pure torture, not unlike sitting through this film.

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