A warm and enjoyable comedy drama, 'Ya-Ya' is an engaging albeit forgettable 'chick flick' which has had quite a large amount of anticipation building up to its release, though those not into the whole craze will be scratching their heads wondering why the story has such a following.
This is a tale of a self-absorbed mother and the rift between her and her overly self-critical daughter which the mother's friends try to force them to heal. Now while that sounds like a decent setup which all of us with parental rifts can sympathise with, the execution isn't so much a "Terms of Endearment" style revelation as more of a soap opera cliche. Nevertheless the drama is quite watchable, and is helped more by the friendship factor between the old and young Ya-Ya's which provide the light and family friendly comedy.
Performances are solid across the board with Burstyn as always showing pure class and adding layers to a character already quite complex. Judd as the younger version has the toughest drama in the movie, and the way her character turns from being a young and spirited young girl to the unstable wreck she's become in later life is convincingly explored even if there's no real new revelations or solutions here that you'll be able to depart with.
Sandra Bullock plays it effectively low key as the troubled daughter, and a welcome surprise comes from Angus MacFadyen as her Irish fiancé, whilst Garner is fine but nothing out of the ordinary. However its the three older Ya-Yas (Smith, Knight & Flanagan) whose mere presence steals the show as the fun loving bunch with a friendship many of us can only envy, and are certainly role models for men and women (I hope I'm still partying as hard at 70). Its a real shame more time wasn't spent exploring their pasts more as the younger versions of the trio feel very interchangeable and the older birds are all far nicer characters than the rather selfish mother-daughter duo which dominate proceedings.
The direction is decent with some interesting visuals and effective switching between numerous time periods which rarely gets confusing and flows quite naturally. Pacing is a little slow at times, especially in the second half, even though there's too much material crammed into too short a run time. The story is also rather TV movie in quality though that's not a major surprise.
As a result, threads are left hanging (what happened to the other sons & daughters of Vivi), whilst others seem to be given the short shrift. Music is well chosen and incorporated, and mother-daughters seeing this film will have a wonderful time. As a guy I found it quite enjoyable albeit slow and and a little too sentimental. Now a film only about the three fun loving older yayas, that's one I'd get excited about.