Dorian's Movie Reviews

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.  
Scale 1 - 5
Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood
2002, Warner Bros.
Directed by Callie Khouri
Screenplay by Callie Khouri
Adaptation by Mark Andrus
From a novel by Rebecca Wells

The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood is charming, witty, intriguing, and delightful. However, there was something wrong with the sound - the dialogue often couldn't be heard over the laughter of the audience. From early childhood to grandparents age, the Ya-yas are ensnared in a bubbling kettle of turmoil of their own making - they are a riot.

Sidda (Sandra Bullock), has spent years flirting with marriage, but shies away from making the commitment. She has spent years on the psychiatrist's couch trying to sort out what is wrong with "her." It's a ghost chase. The movie plays on the questionable premise that, "I'm screwed up because you made me this way." Sidda is a playwright who lives as far away from her incomprehensible and disruptive mother, Vivi (Ellen Burstyn), as she can get. But an unfortunate publicized interview turns them into injured warriors who avoid each other.

The Ya-ya sisterhood, committed to helping each other through all of life's difficulties, plots a plan to get the feuding mother and daughter to reconcile. In a surprise move, the old wheezers drug Sidda and kidnap her back to her homeland, Louisiana, to work things through.

The Ya-yas plan is built on the faulty premise that if the daughter just understood her mother's screwed up life, she would forgive her, and then Mom would forgive her the article, and the world would again be OK again. Journeying in her mother's shoes does raise Sidda's compassion so she looks at her mother as a human being, not a monster, and she stops the "I'll never forgive you," victim's blame game. With her mother's darkest secrets finally revealed, Sidda herself is drawn into the sisterhood.

The difficulty with Ya-Ya is that there are too many characters to identify, which loses the audience. (See the critique for more information.)

Helen Burstyn delivered a sparkling and charming performance as the enigmatically shallow but complex, Vivi. The movie is worth seeing just for this one character. Ashley Judd created a tearing and compelling performance as Vivi as a young woman. Sandra Bullock works with the victim role that was given her, but the part had little meat to work with. The elder Ya-ya sisters, Fionnula Flanagan (Teensy), Shirley Knight (Necie), and Maggie Smith (Caro), were a hoot. The men, James Garner (Shep), and Angus MacFadyen (Connor), played their subdued and understanding parts while the women drove them... well....

The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood delivers. It is a fun, heartwarming, surprising, and healing family movie with sparkling characters, that invites us all to be more appreciative of each other's difficult lives.

I give this one four spotlights out of a possible five for the writing, acting, directing, production design, casting, editing, music, lighting, cinematography, and entertainment value. It carries a PG-13 rating. Enjoy!

For multiple reviews, see:

My comments below attempt to draw attention to things that make a movie good, especially if they made major contributions, and for professional judgments on these various arts, the reader should consult professionals in these arts, and realize that these notes are not necessarily part of the overall rating for entertainment value.

    You are impressed from the beginning that this is a very visual presentation.
  • Writing - Great opening motif. Great characterization, although weak on Sidi, and has too many characters in too many time periods. Great interaction with the set, unique locations and sets, and very visually presented. Four spotlights.
  • Acting - Great acting in several main and other parts. Four spotlights.
  • Casting - Nicely chosen in all parts. Five spotlights.
  • Directing - Very visual production. The scenes flowed well, the story was cohesive, the drama was told visually, and good production. Four spotlights.
  • Production design - Great realistic locations. The set was well integrated with the action, motifs and symbols were well chosen, and these made a major contribution to making the entire production very visual. Five spotlights.
  • Special effects - ?
  • Editing - the action flowed smoothly, captured good action and character reactions, and put together a coherent story.
  • Music - seamless, and complimented the action.
  • Costume design - ?
  • Choreography - ?
  • Stunt coordination - ?
  • Lighting - Especially impressive - the lighting made many night scenes appear very realistic, but captured a lot of detail. Five spotlights.
  • Cinematography - well executed and told the story visually. Five spotlights.

- Dorian


  • 5 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing (rarely given)
  • 4 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 3 Spotlights: Not bad, but has problems - worth seeing
  • 2 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

Note: No half spotlights are given.

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

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