In the southern-chick-flick tradition of Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias, Divine Secrets wants us to laugh a little, cry a little, and come away with a nice cathartic glow. But I was left wondering why the novel on which it's based was so popular. Sandra Bullock, all exasperated double takes and whiny line readings, is a successful New York playwright locked in a feud with her southern-belle mother, played by Ellen Burstyn with a migrating accent. Mom's lifelong friends, the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, step in, kidnapping Bullock and taking her to a remote cabin, where in a series of flashbacks they tell her why she ought to love her poor misunderstood parent. The Ya-Yas are played with scenery-chewing campiness—Maggie Smith does her usual acid-tongued shtick with a southern accent, and Fionnula Flanagan has a few nice moments as a thrice-married steel-willed type. But overall, the comedy never quite works, and none of the more serious “revelations” is any surprise. Directed by Callie Khouri. 116 min.