Waiting to Exhale (1995)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Waiting to Exhale</strong> (1995)

(On Cable TV, January 2019) While Waiting to Exhale isn’t that significant a movie in film history, it still plays so often on cable that it wore me down. I gave up and finally recorded it, although not out of exasperation. My intentions in watching it were not noble at all: Whitney Houston, Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine and Angela Basset headlining the film? I’ll watch that. An episodic story focusing on four women’s attempt to find love in spite of bad partners, Waiting to Exhale also features the directorial debut of Forest Whitaker, who imbues the film with odd stylistic choices that, perhaps unfortunately, precisely date the movie to the mid-1990s. Still, the movie itself is quite a bit of fun to watch. Our heroines don’t take cheating and romantic disappointment very well: in the film’s most memorable sequence, one sets fire to her cheating husband’s car, his clothes inside. While the episodic nature of Waiting to Exhale means that it has high and low points, the acting talent brought together here remains notable. Angela Basset, in particular, is at her best here with a powerhouse performance. The all-black casting is so successful in that by the time a white woman shows up (as a romantic rival, no less) late in the movie, the effect is definitely jarring. Among the male cast, Dennis Haysbert and Wesley Snipes have good roles, but viewers should be forewarned that this is not a movie in which men get the most admirable characters—this is female empowerment, and much of Waiting to Exhale’s success can be found in how completely and solidly it makes viewers (even white men such as myself) identify with the four black women protagonists.

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