Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
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37 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

Wise, Witty, and Wonderful!

Author: Ben Burgraff (cariart) from Las Vegas, Nevada
31 October 2002

After all the hype and comparisons to 'Steel Magnolias', 'Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood', sadly, did not do much box office, which was a shame, as it is a more intimate, realistic vision of women and life-long friendships than the glossier 'Magnolias'.

Four girl friends in Louisiana create a secret sisterhood in 1937, swearing eternal devotion to each other, and they remain best friends through all the triumphs and tragedies in their lives. When the daughter of one of them (Sandra Bullock), a successful playright, has an interview with Time magazine in which she condemns her mother's impact on her life, the mother (Ellen Burstyn, who is superb!) goes ballistic, cutting the daughter out of her life, totally. In charges the other members of the Sisterhood, kidnapping Bullock, and attempting to make things right!

The film then jumps back and forth in time, with Ashley Judd playing the younger Burstyn. She has a lot of happy adventures with her Ya-Ya sisters, but also has to deal with racism, a jealous religious zealot of a mother, an overly loving father (David Rasche, breaking free of his usual comic roles), a true love who dies in WWII, and a family with a guy she 'settles' for (played, in present day, by the wonderful James Garner). There is also a dark secret that is the core of the mother/daughter alienation, which must be dealt with in order for the rift between Bullock and Burstyn to heal (No, I will NOT give it away!)

If you do the math about the years covered, you realize the present-day story SHOULD be taking place in the seventies, at the latest, but this doesn't hurt the overall effectiveness of the picture. As the other present-day sisters, Fionnula Flanagan, Shirley Knight, and (especially) Maggie Smith are WONDERFUL, as is Angus MacFadyen, as Bullock's sympathetic and likable fiance.

While this is unabashedly a 'chick flick', something I really liked was that they DIDN'T fall back on that old chestnut of somebody dying to serve as a convenient catalyst for change and the healing process. And the dialog is full of wickedly hilarious one-liners about men, alcohol, friendship, and growing old!

Don't miss this gem!

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25 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Blew me away!

10/10
Author: tidepride from Atlanta, Georgia
25 November 2002

I sat down on a Saturday night at 9:30 to watch this movie. I watched it through twice before I went to bed that night, twice again on Sunday, and now it's Monday night and I've just watched it all the way through again. And I NEVER do that!

I came to this movie with little or no expectations. I had not read the book (but I will!), although I knew it had been a bestseller for awhile, and was on Oprah's list. I hadn't even paid any attention to who was in it, so was thrilled to see one of my very favorite actresses, Ellen Burstyn.

I can't really tell you what made this movie speak to me the way it did. I had a very happy childhood, and so couldn't relate on that level at all. The cast was phenomenal, particularly Sandy Bullock as Siddalee.

All I can say is what someone before me already said - this is one you should judge for yourself, not by what others say.

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23 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Na-Na?

8/10
Author: Shari (AfricanVenus84@aol.com) from United States
23 January 2005

I liked this movie. I really did. Someone very close to me has a mother very much like this. It's reality folks, not everyone has a sensible loving mother that grasps the role of "motherhood" like a duck to water. Some people remain stuck in a selfish state where they blame everyone/thing else for all their unhappiness and the misdirection of their lives. I'm glad there's a movie that brought that subject to light. One user said the movie is celebrating an alcoholic, but that's untrue. You're watching a woman go further and further into a downward spiral of self-pitying despair and hatred for the events of her life. I also didn't find Vivi's mother to be evil, but she seemed to have been desperately trying to claim her role as a respectable wife. When your husband treats horses better than you, you get a little miffed. He dismissed her as his partner in life for a child she gave him, so the woman aimed her frustrations at her child, instead of her husband. At that time, what could she have really done to the husband? He would've beaten her most likely. I appreciated the fact that Vivi was flawed. Just humanly flawed and admitted it. It sucks that people have parents like this, but Sidda learned to deal with it in her own way. I'm glad it wasn't a typical reaction, like drugs or promiscuity. She just accepted her mother for what she is: flawed and screwed up. Motherhood doesn't make you unselfish and well-versed in letting go of your troubles. That's something you learn over time, and the movie showed that. It might take 40-odd years as it did them, or someone could get it the moment the child is born. What I got from the film is that your parents had dreams and nightmares before you came into the picture, and it takes a lot out of them to come to terms with being responsible for a life that they may or may not be ready for. I also really loved the part where Sidda begins to question her ability to be a good mother and wife. I think that resonated well. I certainly would start to wonder. Parents can screw up their kids easily I tell ya. It's not a responsibility to enter into lightly. I'm sure there were flaws like the accents of Louisiana and technical stuff, but altogether, the movie really reaches many levels.

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39 out of 68 people found the following review useful:

A crying shame

Author: lizzieloo21 from Ithaca, NY
12 May 2004

What a shame!!! This is the worst excuse for an adaptation of a novel I have ever seen. Nothing is explained about Siddalee, Shep, Vivi, the Ya-Yas, the younger siblings, Buggy, etc. No one will understand fully the anguish that the children went through as children or the anguish that Vivi went through in her own childhood. Shortcuts were taken left and right in this film, much to the detriment of the storyline. For instance, Shep is not a living saint, Vivi did not simply beat her children because of dexamyl, Teensy's mother is barely mentioned, Vivi's stay at the boarding school was left out, and where is Aunt Jezie, grownup Lulu, Little Shep, and Baylor? I realize that it was a two hour film, but an adaptation should never have been attempted if it wasn't going to be done faithfully. Everything in this film was explained away too easily. Sidda needed much more than a sob story about her mother's loss and use of dexamyl to explain her behavior. Too easy, too simple, too cheesy. No one could possibly come away with a clear understanding and resolution of the plot.

My recommendation: SKIP IT and read the fabulous books this was supposedly based on: Little Altars Everywhere and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya sisterhood.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Not so divine to me ...

Author: Paula57 (Paula57@yahoo.com) from Austin, TX
9 June 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I really, really wanted to like this film, and before you read the rest of this I will say I can't explain why I don't like it without spoilers, so you've been warned.

This film is being sold as a feel good, female bonding, mother-daughter, chick flick. While it's all those things, it's also about a mother, Vivi (Ellen Burstyn in the present, Ashley Judd in the past) who drank too much and beat her kids. Yes, she lost her true love in the war. Yes, she had a nervous breakdown. And yes, she really, really feels bad about beating her kids. But when daughter Sidda Lee (Sandra Bullock) goes public about her abusive childhood, Vivi doesn't apologize, she pitches a fit and has another Bloody Mary.

Don't get me wrong. There were some good times in Sidda Lee's childhood, and her father reminds her that she should remember those instead. Because it is the adult child's responsibility to understand and forgive the abusive parent. Yes, that strange sound you hear is my blood boiling.

So with the help of the (mostly) drunk Ya-Ya Sisters, kidnapped Sidda Lee comes to understand that her mother was heart broken and sometimes the kids all got sick at the same time and that's why she drank and beat the crap out of them. So Sidda forgives Vivi, even though Vivi still never apologized. Then the band plays and everyone is happy.

Were there times when I laughed? You bet. There are some great lines. But the movie is slow, jumps around in time far more than necessary, and handles serious issues like alcoholism and child abuse far too lightly. I have no idea why this film was championed by Bette Midler, Bonnie Bruckheimer, Callie Khouri and Sandra Bullock. Surely they could have found a better women's story to film.

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20 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

An unforgettable celebration of friendship

10/10
Author: mniehans from Minneapolis, Minnesota
19 August 2003

"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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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Parts were OK, but overall awful

2/10
Author: nilsson-5 from United States
30 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I really hoped to like this movie. Parts were funny, but large sections of it were just awful. I don't see how the daughter was supposed to forgive and forget. Her mother was alcoholic and abusive. Just because prescription drugs pushed her over the edge doesn't really make her a great person otherwise. The scenes of her craziness, losing it with the kids and beating them with a belt just made me sick. The fond memories her daughter has of her seem fun because they were wild and offbeat, and this was sad, as they felt like the edge of craziness/drunkenness too.

I just can't buy the 'all is forgiven' ending, it seemed way too easy for all that happened. Great if they can put it behind them, but it seemed ridiculous. And too bad those great ya-ya sisters didn't try to be as good of friends to the poor children at any point in their life as they did to the mother. She was hardly the only one suffering.

I know a lot of people liked this, but it was too much pain for me, the lighter moments really aren't enough to carry this.

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12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Excellent is an understatement

10/10
Author: PsychicStar from South Africa
13 October 2002

Excellent is an understatement. The movie, which I saw yesterday, was exactly like the book, which I read a few months ago. The actors captured the characters perfectly. The story was moving, powerful and heart-warming. It makes you feel sad, then happy, then sad and then happy again. Maggie Smith was hilarious as Caro and Ellen Burstyn was outstanding as Vivi Dahlin'. Ashley Judd played the part of young Vivi brilliantly. It's probably her finest performance yet. All in all, the movie was wonderfully made and didn't deviate from the book, like so many films do. You HAVE to see this film.

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

A chick flick for all seasons

7/10
Author: George Parker from Orange County, CA USA
24 June 2003

A chick flick for chicks of all ages, "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" tells of four Louisiana ladies who establish their secret Ya-Ya sisterhood, bound by blood and oath and honor, at a young age and who remain friends over the years providing each other with friendship and support. The film's thin storyline is about one such "sister" (Burstyn/Judd) who has issues with her adult daughter (Bullock) and her sister Ya-Ya's who come to her rescue much to her dismay. What ensues is a warmly funny kind of jambalaya which makes up for its gaping plotholes with personality, charm, and rambunciousness as it stumbles through it story finally arriving gasping and wheezing at its feel good conclusion. Gagging material for grinches, most will find the "Ya-Yas" are just too damned much fun not to like on some level. (B)

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A Profoundly Serious Movie

4/10
Author: Roedy Green from Victoria, BC. Canada
8 December 2005

Despite its silly title, which just refers to a childhood game, this is a profoundly serious movie about reconciliation.

It spans three generations of women, tormented by religion and mental breakdown. It explores three generations of mother-daughter relationships.

This would be a great movie for any child of an abusive mother.

Siddalee, the Sandra Bullock character, gradually comes to understand her grandmother and mother and is thus gradually able to forgive them.

It is a frustrating movie. I found myself demanding the plot bound along with series of Hollywood contrivances, but it meanders and backtracks, tantalising then not delivering, much like real life.

The unbearably aching mood of reconciliation and nostalgia gradually develops, partly due to the long suffering, ever-loving Shep Walker (James Garner in a low-profile role quite unlike the ones he normally plays), and Connor (Angus Macfadyen), Siddalee's ever-patient Irish boyfriend.

Maggie Smith is in it, reason enough to watch it.

The movie recreates the south in lush Technicolor over three generations, a visual feast.

If you are embarrassed to cry in public, make sure to watch this alone.

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