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Film Title

Waiting to Exhale

Director

Forest Whitaker

Starring

  • Whitney Houston as Savannah Jackson
  • Angela Bassett as Bernadine Harris
  • Lela Rochon as Robin Stokes
  • Loretta Devine as Gloria Matthews
  • Gregory Hines as Marvin
  • Dennis Haysbert as Kenneth
  • Michael Beach as John Harris
  • Wesley Snipes as James

A glossy comedy drama concerning the love lives and friendships of four African-American women, Waiting to Exhale definitely has a lot of things going for it on the entertainment factor. But while it has some things to recommend, primarily a hot soundtrack and largely impressive casting, Waiting to Exhale just felt overall too slight of a film to make an impact on me.

A quartet of African-American women( Savannah, Bernadine, Robin and Gloria) all experience differences in romantic relationships and love . All living in Phoenix, their relationships with men are never easy and they often meet to discuss their various problems with the opposite sex over vino and food. Savannah is a television producer who has been having a relationship with Kenneth, a married man who keeps promising to leave his wife. Yet she is growing restless with his lying and contemplates taking charge once and for all. Bernadine thought she had a great marriage and lifestyle. That is until slimy John leaves her after eleven years for his secretary and she is crestfallen. She must deal with how best to move forward and reclaim her life as a single woman. The trouble is she never expected any of this to happen, so must go back to square one again and see what she can do. Robin is a flighty girl still hung up on a no good guy, but having casual flings with other guys while she waits for him to finally be in a proper relationship with her. And Gloria, who discovers that her ex-husband is gay, desperately craves company as her son is soon leaving home. Luckily, a new neighbour, handyman Marvin , moves in and she takes a shine to him. Throughout it all, the four women have their friendship to fall back on and rely on in confusing times concerning the heart.

Forest Whitaker adds touches of class as director and knows how to create nice imagery. I do believe he’s trying his best to bring these stories to life and he makes them at least watchable. The script and other areas are where Waiting to Exhale loses me. It just comes off as rather a few, slight vignettes than as a cohesive story, which is something of a detriment to Waiting to Exhale. I mean, I don’t mind me some episodic stories but usually its when they flow that I go for them, which sadly wasn’t the main case here. I did like the interactions between the women(which have humour to a lot of them and a nice dynamic), but I wish there were more of them to flesh things out a bit more. It was mainly Bernadine’s story that moved me the most; her story felt the most compelling as she grew stronger and shared a tentative attraction with a man going through crisis( a brief but memorable turn from Wesley Snipes). The other stories didn’t quite have the pulling power of Bernadine’s, even though Gloria’s pining for her neighbour was nicely observed. I can see that Waiting to Exhale provides escapism for many, I just can’t quite place my finger on why it felt somewhat flat for me. It started pretty well, but for me, it grew rather tedious and drawn out if we’re talking about the overall picture. I think it is a movie that does have some satisfaction and fun, but one that doesn’t really burn into the memory that well because of a lack of depth. The soundtrack however, with soul grooves, courtesy of Babyface, is really smooth and easy to listen to. It was a redeeming feature in a flawed movie.

A saving grace of this film is the main cast, especially Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine. Whitney Houston, looking gorgeous and stylish, gives Savannah a wry humour and quiet depth that is very beneficial and lovely. Angela Bassett is the main standout as the wounded but clearly not beaten Bernadine. As broken down as Bernadine is, the innate toughness Bassett brings to the screen always came off loud and clear that would be a fighter. I mean watching her torch her lying spouse’s fancy clothes and car was pretty satisfying viewing. Her blend of anger and vulnerability sold a lot of the emotion the film was going for and did it successfully. On the other end of the spectrum is Lela Rochon, who does a good enough job, but feels more than a bit stretched as the mixed up Robin. Don’t get me wrong, she’s quite appealing in parts, yet lacks the depth that the role later calls for and comes off as too weak in terms of acting chops. Loretta Devine really has a ball as the caring but hilarious Gloria, who represents a certain voice of calm amid all the entanglements. I loved her vivacious energy and timing, it was pretty spot on. Gregory Hines is a nice presence as the only really good guy(along with Wesley Snipes) in the picture. The rest, mainly Dennis Haysbert and Michael Beach, excel at playing the weasels who do nothing but promise sweet nothing to the ladies.

Undoubtedly entertaining as Waiting to Exhale is, I just found my interest levels lagging a lot. I will say that it all was shot nicely, had a soulful soundtrack and nice work from the cast(mainly Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine), but there was something missing that stopped it from being special.

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