Now as an adult, the 1995 classic Waiting to Exhale makes more sense! The unfair rules of the game called love. The awkward dating scene. The struggles of being the other woman. The hectic life of single motherhood. The regretful dark clouds of abortion. The overall uncertainties, unfortunates, and inconsistencies of love would drive any woman insane. In Forest Whitaker’s directing debut, Waiting to Exhale, based off of the Terry McMillan novel, follows four women whose friendship becomes stronger as they battle a rough year.
Savannah- The Settled One
Played by the late Whitney Houston (RIP), Savannah Jackson was the typical successful Black woman; over consumed with her hectic life as a TV producer. Savannah’s love was often put on the back burner making her career superior. She settled for the occasional love of a married man, Kenneth (Dennis Haysbert- you know the Allstate Insurance man “Are you in good hands?”). Kenneth used his sick wife and young daughter as an excuse to remain in his martial commitment. In the end and against her mother’s advice, Savannah left Kenneth while supporting her friends in their own searches for love.
Bernadine- The Hurt One
Played by Angela Bassett, Bernadine Harris had it all until after 11 years of marriage she was confronted with a cheating husband, messy divorce, and single motherhood. Equipped with all the right qualifications to have her own career, Bernie was stuck with no financial resources to care for her home. Her biggest realization was the fact that her former husband was already shacked up with another woman and no longer the sole provider of her family. Bernie had to make a safe balance between caring for her children, reconciling the broken pieces of her heart, and identifying the resources to properly finance her newly constructed family.
My favorite Bernie scene was when she met James Wheeler (Wesley Snipes) in a hotel bar after a day in divorce court. All too many times when I’m traveling on business I find myself being James Wheeler; a person in foreign places meeting complete strangers but relating to them on many different levels. I’ll admit I’ve never (and I mean never) then spent the night wrapped in that stranger’s arms. But how simply sublime would it be to gravitate to someone you’ve never meet before in the matter of minutes.
Robin- The Broken One
Played by Lela Rochon, Robin Stokes, similar to her friend Savannah, was a successful executive who was in love with another woman’s husband, Russell (Leon). Dealing with post-abortion syndrome, Robin yearned for her ideal family and in the movie, you see Robin wasting her time with several men in hopes to snag her own husband. Like most of us women, Robin has a hard time letting Russell go knowing he’s the root of all her relationship problems. In the end, Robin finds the most “peace” with giving up that “piece” of her life.
Gloria- The Reasonable One
Played by Loretta Devine, Gloria Matthews was a beauty shop owner and single mother of a teenaged son, Tarik (Donald Faison). She falls madly in love with her next door neighbor, Marvin (Gregory Hines). Marvin quickly eased Gloria’s fresh wounds after finding out that her ex-husband was gay. Out of the four women, she’s the most reasonable one spewing helpful, realistic advice to her three female friends.
Overall, I love the way African American women were depicted in this film. Sexy & Successful! We’re not all married or all on welfare. Yes, we have our flaws but we create a diverse balanced group of beautiful creatures. The movie was praised for having an all-Black cast and being well received around the world. Well there were two White women in the movie; (1) the little girl who was performing oral sex on Gloria’s son and (2) Bernie’s husband’s mistress who was eventually pimp slapped in the middle of the board room. (But who’s keeping count!)
My hope is to eventually expand this blog to cover music as well as movies because Waiting to Exhale was a double pleasure; great movie and an even better soundtrack. I was recently in Boston and I listened to the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack from beginning to end. The soulful soundtrack brings back sweet yet sour memories of the any person you’ve ever loved intimately. What other soundtrack was originally produced and written by legendary music mogul Babyface featuring greats like Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, TLC, Brandy, CeCe Winans, and Toni Braxton? The greatness was all captured on one little CD. It’s a classic!
4.75 STARS: Any woman can relate to the turbulent ride of being with any man. RIP Whitney Houston
This blog post is dedicated to the ONE, who out of all the HIMs, took a piece of me and still kept it!