Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood review

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

Middle-aged women in the American South are off-kilter, boozy, faded beauties surrounded by a coven of bosom buddies with ridiculous names, big hair and a fondness for chiffon. The movies tell us so, y'all.

And Divine Secrets... is no different. Siddalee (Sandra Bullock, not even bothering with the accent) is a successful playwright who complains of her traumatic childhood during a newspaper interview. Her Dixie diva mother Viva (Ellen Burstyn) disowns her immediately, prompting Viva's friends, Necie (Shirley Knight) Caro (Maggie Smith) and Teensy (Fionnula Flanagan) - - the so-called Ya-Yas - - to kidnap Siddalee. It's not money they're after but an opportunity to tell her what a wondrous youth they shared with her ma, proving the old girl's not such a silly cow after all.

A quick scan of the credits tells us this should be a quality tearjerker. Not only is it directed by Callie Khouri, no stranger to Sister flicks having scribbled Thelma & Louise, but she has a superb cast and great source material (Rebecca Wells' novel of the same name) to call on. Yet this is a sprawling, curiously empty affair. Even the revelation of the Ya-Ya's deepest secret lacks dramatic punch.

The one glimmer of magic is Ashley Judd, playing Viva as a young woman in the annoyingly brief flashbacks. Soaring beyond the horror of a couple of misjudged wigs, she emerges incandescent, providing the genuine tissue-dabbing emotion missing from the rest of proceedings.

Resolutely bird-oriented and lacking scope or rounded male characters, Divine Secrets... reinforces the time-honoured theory of book adaptations - - the source material is invariably better.

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.