Patient: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Profile: Yet another mother-daughter spleen-venting dramedy that has at its center the Big Dark Secret that, after 90 minutes of screwing with the audience, turns out to be about as Big and Dark as Ruth Bader Ginsberg—Take it to the hole, G-Dawg! Think The Joy Luck Club meets Fried Green Tomatoes meets Steel Magnolias meets Divine, Interminably Drawn-Out Plot Devices of the Ya- . . . Ah, Who Gives a Rat's Ass, Sister? Symptoms: There is a story here; the problem is they refuse to tell it. Instead of information and drama, we get a cadre of old ladies talking about remembering the crazy, cruel times that occurred 40, 50, 60 years before, telling us all this in a never-ending stream of Mad Glibs—"You just delivered her a swift kick in the ego"—spoken to the last row so that the whole thing comes off as Macbeth's witches as played by the Golden Girls. Short flashbacks are presented as if they're going out of style—and after Ya-Ya, they just might—but there is little context. What's more, the flashbacks never live up to their hype. The cruel mother never seems that cruel, the damaged relationship not that damaged. But you keep waiting, waiting for the Big Secret to drop to explain what it all means. Turns out the secret doesn't nearly measure up. I haven't felt this let down by such a big buildup since the Gulf War. Diagnosis: No Big Secret—expected Sophie's Choice, got So What?
Prescription: Remember that old Sam Kinison joke about how he felt sorry for famine victims but that it was their own fault for not moving to where the food is? Well, that's Ya-Ya. There's a story here; the problem is they don't show it to you, giving you instead people talking about it decades later in such a staged and sniffling manner that you think you're watching a Hallmark production of the Country Bear Jamboree. The immeasurably superior Terms of Endearment accepted the past as prologue and dealt with the present. Ya-Ya, on the other hand, should present the future in dollops only as a way to showcase long stretches of the past where the story actually takes place. This will be far more dramatic while better explaining the present. And please, please, please don't hold on to your Big Secret as if it's the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. It's not. Have you been paying attention to what parents these days do to their kids—murder, abuse, Catholic education? Bring the Big Secret out halfway through the movie so we have context and can see the fallout. And puhleeease, do not make it as if the airing of this one weak-ass secret heals the entire relationship. No one thing heals relationships . . . except the experienced touch of a doctor—Awwww, Ya-Ya!