Ya-ya, sisters

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Directed by Callie Khouri

(Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Ron Eldard, James Garner)


About 10 minutes into my adventure with the women who call themselves “Ya-Yas,” Vivi Walker (Ellen Burstyn) is irate about a Time magazine article profiling her daughter, Siddalee (Sandra Bullock) that accuses Vivi of being a bad mother. Not a moment later, her girlfriends are in the car to save the day. I lean back, nudge my friend Andrea and whisper about how this movie is “so us.”

Ok, maybe I don’t live in Louisiana and maybe I’m not 65 years old with a grown daughter, but the girlfriend concept is not unusual to me. I don’t have sisters, but I do have a group of girls who bring out everything I want to be: adventurous, silly and best of all, slightly crazy.

Crazy is a good way to describe the Ya-Yas, a group of aging southern women who have been friends for years, experiencing the good and bad and making each moment a little better than the last. Following the plot is not difficult with the lilting tones of the Ya-Ya’s accents and flashbacks between their current and past experiences. Burstyn and Bullock are believable in their roles as mother and daughter, but their scenes together are few and far between.

After the Time article is released, Vivi refuses to speak with her daughter, so the other three Ya-Yas go to New York to kidnap Siddalee. They want to explain to the angry daughter why her mother acts the way she does and why Siddalee should forgive her.

And thus, the crazy, sad and wonderful stories of youth come out to dazzle and amuse, leaving any soft-hearted girlfriend aching to be a southern woman growing up in the 1940s.

The women stick by each other no matter what. Through husbands, children and grandchildren, they are by the sides of their girlfriends amid a few drinks and cigarettes. In one scene, the Ya-Yas, at about age 18, sneak out of the house to drive topless in the hot Louisiana night, only to get caught by the cops. AhhÖ.familiarity. I can’t say my girls and I have driven without tops but lets just say we’ve had our fun, all in the name of friendship. Watching the Ya-Yas explain their misadventures to someone else made the movie worthwhile and spoke volumes about the value of women’s relationships.

One of the Ya-Yas described it so well when she said: “There are people there when you need saving; to cover your ass when it needs covering and are always there for you.” Yep, that about sums it up.

– Maggie Hessel-Mial