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The Daily Tar Heel

'Ya-Ya' Fun Estrogen Fest

If you adhere to this criteria in any way, then "Ya-Ya" will probably be hilarious and touching, as it is intended to be. If not, then perhaps it's best to see another flick.

The film is an adaptation of the acclaimed novel of the same name by Rebecca Wells. Unlike other movies derived from literature, "Ya-Ya" follows its source closely and doesn't invent any new scenes.

"Ya-Ya" combines three different story lines into one big pot of Louisiana-style gumbo. The modern day sequences jump from a mother Vivi (Ellen Burstyn) to her daughter, Sidda (Sandra Bullock). They are engaged in an argument so heated that it's up to Vivi's friends, the female sisterhood known as the Ya-Yas, to resolve it.

The Ya-Yas are Vivi's three best friends since childhood who have seen each other through every joy and sorrow. In an effort for Sidda, an unusually cynical Bullock, to understand her mother, the Ya-Yas break open their scrapbook to tell their story and Vivi's through a series of flashbacks.

These blasts to the past are fairly seamless but still can be confusing. The Ya-Yas' names randomly float around until a light bulb moment occurs halfway through the film in which one can finally link the older Ya-Yas to their younger counterparts. Only Vivi's leadership of the Ya-Yas is evident in the transitions.

Drenched in bourbon, cigarettes and fits of both hysteria and humor, Vivi's story carries the majority of the movie. As the dysfunctional yet charming mother, Burstyn bears the weight with ease.

The actress shines as present-day Vivi -- she rants like a drama queen about Sidda as the ice tinkles in her bourbon. Ashley Judd is surprisingly versatile in her role as a younger Vivi, immersing herself in drunken tirades, as well as having lighthearted fun with her young children.

Alcoholic episodes and cigarette smoke-filled escapades are common even with the older Ya-Yas, except for Maggie Smith, who carts an oxygen tank as Ya-Ya Caro. Smith has been criticized for her "Southern" accent, but it sounds like an old quavery-voiced Louisiana woman even when she occasionally slips.

At first sight, the film seems like a teary chick flick, which it is at times. However, it sheds light on the timelessness of women's friendships and the relationship between a mother and her daughter.

These themes may seem tired, but the film throws in something new -- a woman's relationship with her mother's friends can also be a very strong bond. The closeness of all the women seems genuine, and any Southern girl can relate.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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