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Siddalee, a famous New York playwright, is quoted in Time magazine and infuriates her dramatic, Southern mother. A long-distant fight wages until her mother's friends (and members of the Yaya Sisterhood) kidnap Siddalee and take her "home" to the South, where they hope to explain her mother's history and to patch up the rift between mother and daughter. Written by
"I'm not O.K. and you're not O.K. and that's O.K." That's one of the messages of this funny, profound, honest film. The flawed humanity of its characters stands alongside the transcendent miracle of friendship.
Young Siddalee Walker (played with passion and humor by Sandra Bullock) has made it as a playwright in New York. She has been successful in starting an entirely new life, in the process gaining distance from her alcoholic, mercurial mother back in Louisiana. She has escaped -- or has she? Something makes her send a postcard home by giving an interview to Time Magazine in which she attributes her creativity to the mistreatment she suffered as a child. That serves as a call to action for her mother's lifelong friends (Fionnula Flanagan, Shirley Knight, and the incomparable Maggie Smith, wheeling an oxygen tank). It seems likely at this point that Siddalee's mother Vivi (Ellen Burstyn) will go to her grave without ever speaking to her beloved daughter again. Drastic action is called for, and these three ladies are no frail blossoms.
They kidnap Siddalee, bring her to a backwoods cottage in Louisiana, and set about the task of helping both mother and daughter to remember that growth comes from acknowledging connections, not severing them. They are aided in this task by an ornate scrapbook that the four of them kept of their youthful adventures as the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
The members of this sisterhood do not turn a blind eye to each other's shortcomings. In one of the film's many poignant moments, Siddalee does a cruel impersonation of her mother. As the audience readies itself for Vivi's friends to rush to her defense, one of them (Maggie Smith, of course) says dryly, "She's got her pegged all right." These women, who are about as far from perfect as the cottage in Louisiana is from New York, dare to love each other with eyes wide open.
Flanagan, Knight, and Smith are delightful as Vivi's three friends, and James Garner contributes a fine performance as the quiet, forbearing husband and father. Most memorable of all is the wounded beauty of Ellen Burstyn as the tempestuous Vivi, who has grown up with two kinds of savagery --- the naked brutality of her father and the merciless piety of her mother. Through the whole film shines the keen emotional intelligence of director Callie Khouri.
This film is a masterpiece that should not be missed.
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