Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2002. All Girl Productions, Gaylord Films. Screenplay by Callie Khouri, adaptation by Mark Andrus, based on the novels Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells. Cinematography by John Bailey. Produced by Bonnie Bruckheimer, Hunt Lowry. Music by T Bone Burnett, David Mansfield. Production Design by David J. Bomba. Costume Design by Gary Jones. Film Editing by Andrew Marcus.
Academy Award-winning screenwriter Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise, Something To Talk About) once again explores the inner geography of Southern women in her adaptation of the same-titled Rebecca Wells novel as well as its follow up, Little Altars Everywhere. Also making her debut as director, Khouri has assembled a world-class assortment of first-rate actors to produce this incredibly enjoyable story that begins when a successful playwright (Sandra Bullock) gives an interview to Time magazine in preparation for the Broadway debut of her latest work. Detailing the many difficult experiences of growing up with her complicated mother (Ellen Burstyn), Bullock’s tale is presented by the magazine as a horror story of endless child abuse and alcoholism that incurs her mother’s wrath and threatens to tear their already fragile relationship completely apart. In come Burstyn’s best friends (Shirley Knight, Fionnula Flanagan and Maggie Smith), who along with Burstyn make up the Ya-Yas, a secret society of bonded women that the four have kept going since childhood, and now they’ve taken it upon themselves to help the current situation. The three ladies kidnap Bullock from her swanky Manhattan life and hold her hostage in their Louisiana home until such time as they can give the young lady an ample amount of her mother’s history in order to convince them to reconcile. Ashley Judd beautifully portrays Burstyn’s character as a young woman, someone who had too many compromises in life and at some point just couldn’t bear under them any more. Bullock’s understanding of a terrible time in her mother’s life is the climax of this very touching and extremely enjoyable drama, one that falters at points where Khouri is unable to make the transitions between time periods comfortably, or balance the comedic elements with the more serious ones, but one so rich with delicious characters and genuinely moving moments that it’s worth seeing all the same. Perfect casting is to be highly commended here, especially the twelve women playing the four Ya-Yas at three different stages of their lives; Khouri’s keen direction with her performers leaves no confusion as to which young actor corresponds with which older one. Executive-produced by Bette Midler under her company All Girls Productions, I might also add that it’s a good film for those who were left sorely undernourished by Jocelyn Moorhouse’s How To Make An American Quilt.