Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, language, and brief sensuality

Reviewed by: Halyna Barannik

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Drama / Comedy
1 hr. 56 min.
Year of Release:
Ellen Burstyn and Sandra Bullock in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Maggie Smith, Fionnula Flanagan | Directed by: Callie Khouri | Produced by: Bonnie Bruckheimer, Hunt Lowry | Written by: Mark Andrus, Callie Khouri, Rebecca Wells | Distributor: Warner Brothers

“The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” may seem to be about a girl’s club in which the members call themselves Ya-Yas, but it really is a story about the reconciliation between mother and daughter and the healing of old wounds. It is also about the sins of the fathers (in this case, the mothers) passed down through generations.

Scene from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya SisterhoodHolding the movie together are Sandra Bullock, who plays Siddie, and Ellen Burstyn, who plays her mother, Vivvie. Both are dynamic performers who deliver the emotional intensity that the story line requires. The supporting cast is pretty stellar also, with Maggie Smith, Shirley Knight, Fionnula Flanagan and James Garner rounding out the cast. The film uses flashbacks, presented logically, to explain past history (with Ashley Judd playing the young Vivvie). Little by little we learn about the lost loves, deep sorrows, family troubles, public humiliations which lead to despair, nervous breakdowns, and alcoholism. Despite the rather silly demeanor of the ya-yas and the costumes they wear during their club meetings, the thematic line of this film is a serious examination of what happens to someone too weak to deal with life’s problems.

From the spiritual perspective, the movie sprinkles references to Catholic beliefs, but otherwise, there is nothing that could be called truly spiritual in thematic content. The characters turn to each other for strength and support. Although there is not much cursing and fornication, so common in today’s movie culture, there is quite a bit of explicit and implicit reference to magic. The ya-yas perform a blood ritual to cement their eternal bond to each other and they pray to nature, worshipping forces and spirits other than God.

On a positive note, as Sidda realizes the hardships and heartaches her mother experienced, she is able to forgive her, and Vivvie, on her end, accepts responsibility for her failings. The movie succeeds in pulling all the bad and good factors together and gives us a fairly peaceful ending of love and forgiveness.

Viewer Comments

By the way, for those of you who may not be aware of the meaning of the title of this movie, “Ya-ya” is a slang name for “vagina.” [ChristianSpotlight Publisher]

Positive—I just wanted to say that I enjoyed this movie. Although there were times that I was uncomfortable, it was not because of the writing of the movie. It was for the pure reason that it made me think about not only my life with my mother, but me as a mother too. It was a movie that as a Christian made you really stop and think, are you being the kind of mother you need to be? Are you training your children in the way they should be as parents? As for Vivie’s mom, I didn’t see her as the “bad guy,” I saw her in a role where she was portrayed as a weak woman who had little if any self-esteem because of how her mother was treated as well as how she was treated by her husband… that is in this day a still very real issue, even if we as Christians don’t choose to see it ~ it is still there. Thanks for taking the time to read my opinion.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Positive—Though the Ya Ya’s weren’t sisters in Christ, they were a wonderful example of the joy of good, lifelong friendships. That kind of “sisterly” bond is reflected in how they held each other up in bad times, and rejoiced with them in good times. Though there were adult themes, alcoholism, dysfunctional family issues, and language, we all know both Christian and non-Christian women have grown up in homes where there were such issues and problems. I think many can relate to crazy family dynamics, where moms and daughters have relationship struggles. Maybe that’s why there were no empty seats in the theatre! Though a dependence on and relationship with Christ can help us overcome tough times and people, I enjoyed being reminded of how my closest girlfriends “loveth me at all times”!
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Melissa, age 33
Negative—Don’t waste your time on this stupid, distasteful movie. I walked out after about 50 minutes. I only stayed that long because I thought it would get better. It didn’t. The characters were a bunch of alcohol drinking, swearing, boring women. The plot was lame. And the movie was not even mildly interesting.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 1]
—Rena, age 36
Positive—This movie holds all of the magic of Rebecca Well’s novel of the same name. A fantastic cast and emotionally driven theme make this one of the best films I’ve seen in a long, long time. It is definitely a chik flik, but I dragged my boyfriend along and he stayed awake. I was disappointed, though, to see several young kids in the theater. Parents—this is not a children’s movie. It is full of the turmoil of alcoholism, family struggles, and abuse, as well as offensive language (although nothing sexual). One must remember that the story is about coming through life’s storms. It shows our weaknesses and desires, and our triumphs. A fantastic movie about the human condition.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Brandy, age 21
Negative—I walked out of this movie. It was offensive to me for a few reasons. The “bad”, evil character (Vivvie’s mom) just happened to be the one “religious” character who prays to God, yet is portrayed as an evil, stupid woman. Vivvie, on the other hand, seems to be some sort of pagan or witch, who is into magick… yet she is the character we are supposed to be in love with. I also got sick and tired of hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain just about every 5 minutes. The movie was slow and annoying to me, so like I said, I walked out. I wish I could’ve got my money back, but oh well.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
—Brandy, age 21
Positive—This movie, although it had its share of language and some rather intense moments, was excellent. It was a very moving story about a mother and daughter learning about each other and becoming close after years of not communicating well. The actresses (all of them) did a fantastic job. There was quite a bit of humor in the movie as well, and the flashback sequences just drew you more into the characters lives and emotions. I would recommend this movie to anyone (although it is mostly a chick-flick) who loves a good tear-jerker and a movie with more substance than most put out today!! Oh, one more thing, please obey the PG-13 rating on this one.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Scarlett, age 22
Negative—I gathered four generations of women together in our family to view this movie together. We had thought it would be a time of female bonding to only be disappointed with the offensive language, use of alcohol and cigarettes and the treatment of children. It was very long. These are all items which having grown up in the church were very disturbing for all of us to view.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2½]
—Ann Jackson, age 44
Negative—Seemed like a very looonng movie! Plot was thin and movie dragged on and on. Acting was good, but a waste of fine talent. There was a lot of bad language; especially using the Lord’s name in vain. There were some funny and entertaining parts, but just not enough to keep your interest. Save your money and wait for it to come out on video.
My Ratings: [Average / 2]
—Laurie, age 40
Movie Critics
…The wry comments are often humorous, but the dialogue is also laced with numerous obscenities, crude terms and God’s name used in vain…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…DISCUSSION TOPICS—Corporal punishment, family, friendship, religion, Catholicism, sin, hate, homosexuality, regrets, motherhood, loneliness, guilt, pride, good intentions, taking responsibility, mental breakdowns…
…A dynamite cast, whatever its inconsistencies, delivers the goods, overriding structural problems…
—Ed Blank, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Comments from young people
Neutral—This movie was okay (if you have nothing better to do). It was kind of dull, and it could be boring at times. I was expecting it to be much better. There was some language. I would say if you have not seen “The Sum of All Fears” or “The Bourne Identity” then skip this one and see of those. Don’t waste the money. You aren’t missing much.
My Ratings: [Average / 2½]
—Nadia, age 14
Positive—I loved this movie. I saw it with four other girls and we were so inspired to start our own little take of the sisterhood. Yes, there was a bit bad with it—the swearing was a bit much—but overall it was an enjoyable film. Most of the girls in the group were crying over the film. It was a powerful testimony of reconciliation between mother and daughter. I’ve heard some say that it promotes alcoholism, but it actually portrays it as bad (Vivvie’s addiction to it).
My Ratings: [Good / 5]
—Julie, age 15
Neutral—This movie was entertaining and fun, yet lacked the depth and overall message I feel it could have portrayed much better. I had read most of the book before viewing the movie, and I felt that the book did a much better job of showing the true struggle of mother and daughter. It better explains the plot, as well. The characters are more highly developed and Vivi’s personality is shown in more depth. Overall, the movie was enjoyable and it was fun to see with my girl friends. But I believe the book is, if somewhat more offensive, more in depth and moving.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Brianna, age 15
Positive—I thought that this was a very good movie. There was some language and even a racial comment but other than that it was pretty clean. It has a great story line, and shows the unity of these four women and how they have helped each other through life. It focuses mainly on the leader of the Ya-Ya’s Vivian. She has the attitude that everything that happens wrong in the world happens to me and only me. The other sisters are telling the story of her life to her daughter, so she will be able to understand why her mother is the way she is. It’s a heart-warming story that is most definitely without a doubt a chick flick. This movie is definitely worth the money.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Sara, age 16
Positive—Great movie! I was very upset that they took the Lord’s name in vain so many times (at least 10). They also could have done without all the drinking. A lot of the movie had to do with alcohol.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Taylor, age 13