The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood Review

So then, ‘The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’, is upon us. The film version of the best selling book by Rebecca Wells and championed by Oprah Winfrey and numerous book groups all over America. But is it any good?

Well, it’s not a bad film at any rate. Sidda (Sandra Bullock) is a successful playwright who is unwittingly critical of her mother’s treatment of her as a child in an interview. When the mother, Viviane, played by the wonderful Ellen Burstyn, sees the interview it sparks off a minor war of words and actions that threatens to destroy the mother/daughter bond forever. But Viviane is one of a group of friends who call themselves the Ya-Ya Sisters and they are determined not to let this happen and hatch a plot to bring the warring family members back together.

The cast is fairly good. Ellen Burstyn is always a joy to watch and her portrayal of the archetypal southern belle is wonderfully over the top. Sandra Bullock is also fairly good as Sidda, but the other members are criminally underused, especially the fantastic Maggie Smith.

This is, as you might suspect, not the most action packed film you will ever see. As a drama, it works fairly well; it does not outstay its welcome and is entertaining in a cloying sort of way. It does try too hard to be quirky, and those people of a sensitive disposition are advised to stay away, as it does get very syrupy at times. There are some interesting ideas here, the problem is that the film does not really know what to do with them and fumbles them. The central premise, namely, the intricacies of the mother/daughter relationship and the idea that the mother has had a life that is a closed book to the daughter is an interesting one, but deserves a better film than this to explore it.

The story is told, mainly through flashback, as Sidda is presented with significant events in her mothers’ life that she was entirely unaware of, and go someway towards explaining the upbringing Sidda had. The problem is, though, that there is too much material for a film of this length to adequately deal with. Characters, apart from the main ones, are undeveloped and entire plot lines and family members are ignored. This makes the film a fairly unsatisfactory experience, on the whole, and the viewer is left wondering why huge chunks of narrative seem to be missing. If you are familiar with the books, you will probably get more out of this film. Then again, if you really enjoyed the book, then a film will do it no justice and, ultimately, this film will please no one.

Picture
A good, clean print. Lots of detail and solid, bright colours. Warners have done a wonderful job here.

Sound
5.1 Dolby Digital, a good, lively soundtrack Good use of ambient effects, especially during one sequence involving and airplane ride.

Extras
A good selection of extras, including...

Commentaries from Director Callie Khouri and actress Ashley Judd
Warning. This commentary should not be attempted by those with sugar intolerance. It’s not the most informative commentary around and consists mainly of them congratulating each other and the other cast members. It’s quite difficult to listen to at times.

Deleted Scenes
Now, these are interesting. A fifteen-minute montage of scenes that were left from the final cut. Probably due to running times, as there are several key scenes here, that the main feature would benefit enormously from by including. Even the title of the film makes more sense after viewing these.

Alison Krause ‘Sitting In The Window Of My Room’ music video
Does what it says on the tin.

Ya-Ya Sisterhood Scrapbook
An odd little feature, this. Click on the pictures of the scrapbook and see a little montage of the actresses explaining a little about their characters. And I do mean ‘a little’ as each sequence lasts little over 40 seconds. Difficult to justify the existence of this feature, except it will give those people who buy this as their first DVD something to play with.

Unlocking the Secrets: An HBO First Look
A 20-minute short piece that gives an insight into the filming. Well, you know, 20 minutes of backstage B-roll footage and people talking into cameras explaining how this was the best film they had ever made and everyone was so wonderful.

Conclusion
If you’re looking for a ‘chick flick’ then you could do worse than this. You could do so much better, though. Watch ‘The Joy Luck Club’ instead. Though it is interesting watching the film and then going through the deleted scenes and imagining what a better film it could have been. Credit must be given for the range of extras, even though they are not the most exciting you will ever see, it is nice to have them.

Film
5 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
7 out of 10
Overall

6

out of 10

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