Waiting To Exhale

on December 22, 1995 by Christine James
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   Following the ensemble chick flicks "How To Make an American Quilt" and "Now and Then," this story of a quartet of women discovering men aren't integral to their existence falls prey to the same problem as its predecessors: The diffuse focus allows only a brief sketch of each character, lessening the audience's emotional investment and interest in the outcomes.
   Based on the best-selling novel by Terry McMillan (who co-scripts with Ronald Bass, who co-wrote "The Joy Luck Club," the ultimate ensemble chick flick), "Waiting to Exhale" follows four friends: Savannah (Whitney Houston), a TV producer trying in vain to find the perfect man; Bernadine (Angela Bassett), whose rich husband of 11 years leaves her and their two children for another woman, then tries to shaft her on the divorce settlement; Gloria (Loretta Devine), a divorced mother who quells loneliness with food; and Robin (Lela Rochon), a beautiful girl willing to put her philandering days behind her if only any of the men she meets showed any potential as husband material.
   Aside from Bassett's strong-willed but vulnerable Bernadine, the characters seem mired in situations within their control, and it's a slow-paced process to see them through to their respective epiphanies--the moment when they can "exhale" all their pent-up frustration and anticipation. Still, there are some humorous observations, irrefutable truths and good performances that make this movie worthwhile to those in a man-bashing mindframe. Starring Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon. Directed by Forest Whitaker. Written by Terry McMillan and Ronald Bass. Produced by Ezra Swerdlow and Deborah Schindler. A Fox release. Comedy/drama. Rated R for language and some strong sexuality. Running time: 124 min
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