- Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (film)
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Callie Khouri Produced by Bonnie Bruckheimer
Screenplay by Mark Andrus (Adaptation)
Story by Rebecca Wells (Novel) Starring Ellen Burstyn
Music by T-Bone Burnett
Cinematography John Bailey Editing by Andrew Marcus Studio Gaylord Films Distributed by Warner Bros. Release date(s) June 3, 2002 Running time 116 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $27 million Box office $73,839,240
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a 2002 American comedy-drama film starring Sandra Bullock and Ashley Judd, directed and written by Callie Khouri. It is based on Rebecca Wells' novel of the same name and its prequel collection of short stories, Little Altars Everywhere.
The film opens in 1937 Louisiana with four little girls out in the woods at night, each wearing a home-made headdress. The leader, Viviane Abbott, initiates them into a secret order she dubs the "Ya-Ya Sisterhood," which they seal by cutting their palms and taking a blood oath of undying loyalty.
Then we switch to 2002 New York City, where Viviane's daughter, playwright Siddalee Walker (Sandra Bullock), while overseeing production of her newest release, gives an interview with a Time Magazine reporter, mentioning her unhappy childhood as a major source of inspiration for her work. The reporter sensationalizes Sidda's complaint, implying abuse and deep, dark family secrets.
Vivi (Ellen Burstyn) reads the article and becomes extremely upset. She calls Sidda, but instead of speaking can only bang the phone on the table while crying that she is dead to her. Sidda, equally frustrated by her mother's behavior, also bangs her phone against the counter after Vivi has hung up on her. Much to the frustration of her fiancé, Connor McGill (Angus Macfadyen), Sidda takes her mother's behavior as a declaration of all-out war. Vivi takes down all the pictures of Sidda in her house, cuts her face out of family pictures, and mails the defaced pictures to Sidda, along with a copy of her will with Sidda's name marked out. Sidda in turn sends Vivi a newly-printed wedding invitation with the time and place cut out, plus torn-up tickets to her play.
When the Ya-Ya Sisters learn of Vivi's war, they decide to take matters into their own hands to resolve it. Led by Caroline Eliza "Caro" Benett (Maggie Smith), Aimee Malissa "Teensy" Whitman (Fionnula Flanagan), and Denise Rose "Necie" Kelleher (Shirley Knight) visit Sidda in New York, then drug her, kidnap her, and take her back to Louisiana. There they show her a scrapbook album her mother has kept, titled Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which they believe they must reveal to Sidda.
They explain to Sidda her mother's experiences, depicted in flashbacks of their childhood, then as young women and mothers, including Sidda's own childhood. Vivi's (Ashley Judd) troubles include: encountering family racism as a child; a bitter, jealous mother who falsely accuses her of incest with her father, and the loss of her true love, Teensy's brother Jack (Matthew Settle) who is killed in World War II. She settles for an unhappy marriage with Shepherd James "Shep" Walker (David Lee Smith/James Garner), a good and faithful man who loves her, despite the abuse she heaps on him because he isn't Jack.
This is all well and good to Sidda, but doesn't change her opinion of her mother as a self-centered person unable to deal with her troubles, which she has unfairly inflicted on Sidda to the point of needing psychotherapy. Meanwhile, she tells Connor not to send out the wedding invitations, which troubles him enough to come down to Louisiana to find her. The Sisters then realize that Sidda must be told Vivi's deepest, darkest secret in order to understand. They try to persuade Vivi that she must do this herself, but she doesn't have the courage to tell her daughter, so they do it for her with Sidda's father present. In the meantime, Vivi tells Connor herself. The secret is that Vivi eventually had a nervous breakdown, requiring a period of hospitalization.
Sidda finally understands the depth of her mother's suffering, and that she didn't have to waste money on therapy trying to find out why it was her fault. She also recalls a happy memory of her mother: when Sidda missed out on an airplane ride because she was too scared but then changed her mind, Vivi borrowed money to get the pilot to give one more ride, which she took with Sidda. Sidda forgives her mother, and tells her she wants to have the wedding at her house. Vivi makes her daughter a Ya-Ya headdress, and the Sisters induct her into the order.
- Sandra Bullock as Siddalee "Sidda" Walker
- Angus Macfadyen as Connor McGill
- Ellen Burstyn as Viviane Joan "Vivi" Abbott Walker
- James Garner as Shepherd James "Shep" Walker
- Maggie Smith as Caroline Eliza "Caro" Bennett
- Fionnula Flanagan as Aimee Malissa "Teensy" Whitman
- Shirley Knight as Denise Rose "Necie" Kelleher
- Caitlin Wachs as the child Vivi
- Mary Katherine Weiss as the child Caro
- Alyssa May Gold as the child Teensy
- Nicki Tschudi as the child Necie
- Ashley Judd as young Vivi
- Allison Bertolino as the child Sidda
- Katy Selverstone as young Caro
- Jacqueline McKenzie as young Teensy
- Kiersten Warren as young Necie
- Matthew Settle as Jack Whitman
- David Lee Smith as young Shep
- Cherry Jones as "Buggy" Abbott, Vivi's mother
- David Rasche as Taylor Abbot, Vivi's father
- Gina McKee as Genevieve Whitman, Teensy's mother
- Mark Joy as Mr. Whitman, Teensy's father
- Directed by Callie Khouri
- Screenplay by Callie Khouri
- Adaptation by Mark Andrus
- Produced by Bonnie Bruckheimer and Hunt Lowry
- Executive producers : Bette Midler & Mary McLaglen
- Executive producers : E.K. Gaylord II & Lisa Stewart
- Director of photography : John Bailey, A.S.C.
- Production designer : David J. Bomba
- Edited by Andrew Marcus
- Music by T Bone Burnett
- Original score by David Mansfield & T Bone Burnett
- Costume designer : Gary Jones
- Associate producers : Scott Elias & Tom Proper
- Visuals effects by CREO
Release and reception
Divine Secrets grossed a domestic total of $69,599,016 and $4,240,224 outside the States, totaling $73,839,240 worldwide. The film opened at #2 the weekend of its release with $16,167,412 behind The Sum of All Fears's second weekend.
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