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Waiting to Exhale Waiting to Exhale
Starring Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon, and Loretta Devine
Directed by Forest Whitaker

Sometimes it is important to remember -- it's JUST a movie.

There's a lot that can be said to rip Waiting to Exhale to shreds -- but I'm feeling rather kindly -- so let's get the bad stuff out of the way first.

The script. What script? WTE is a series of vignettes. Lots of 'em. Which may be the only way to tie together the stories of four thirtysomething women, all alone and not wanting to be. The vignettes show their feeble efforts to accomplish this, and then the bull sessions that follow. And it all comes down to: All the good ones are married. Or cheating. Or still married in their hearts.

On behalf of all the single guys out there, if we behave as badly as the morons you choose to date in the first half of the film, you should be homewreckers.

And guys, there's enough comedy (and it IS funny) in the first half that you can lean back in the second half and ruminate as to why, if there are women that good looking out there, they date morons when you are available. But if you don't think what you see in the first half qualifies as "moron," you have serious work to do.

Which brings me to the stories, all set in Phoenix, Arizona in a one-year time frame . . .

Angela Bassett plays Bernadine, whose husband walks out on her for his secretary. She's offered a big cash settlement, but there's a lot more to be had. And what that is (and it's well deserved) is blurred over quickly, 'cuz there's three more stories to get to.

Whitney Houston plays Savannah, who moves to town searching for a new start to life. And a new man. One date, and she's out of the pool. Until a man from her past, prodded by her mom, shows up. But he's married. Sorry, got two more stories to do.

Robin (Lela Rochon) uses an incredible body to land men with enough money to give her what she wants. She wants permanence. She gets, well, morons and creeps. I won't give away some of the funniest parts.

Finally, we have Gloria (Loretta Devine) whose never-been-there, never-done-nothing husband still owns her heart after 17 years, shows up to tell her he's gay. So? Where are the other three friends who never said after 17 years of neglect, maybe she should divorce the bum?

It's probably in the original, best selling novel. Which is why I stop here to remind everyone that Cranky never compares what's on the screen to original source material. Let's move on.

Waiting to Exhale cruises smoothly along until just after the center of the movie. Here there is a struggle in which none of the four stories wins out. Director Forest Whitaker attempts to keep all four evenly balanced. This is called "losing the center of focus." It means that the weak stories detract from the strong ones, and by the time the end approaches, all four have to be resolved in manners which, to me, just don't fit. It felt like the scriptwriters (and the script was cowritten by the original novelist, who knows better than anyone) looked at the page count and said "oops, gotta end this quick." And they do.

Here's my problem. There's no central story; nothing strong enough on which all the other stories can hang. That could have been Angela Bassett's story, and if that was the intent, the vignette format puts that to bed real fast. She faces a tough situation, hires a lawyer and wins. The setback she faces (a lousy interim settlement -- one which won't cover the mortgage) doesn't play out in "real" life. No struggle with money. No court appeals. Bassett is a good actress (if you haven't seen What's Love Got To Do With It do so now), but she has nothing to react to, nothing to work with here.

The same can be said for the other stories, had they been the focus.

Which brings me to the acting. It isn't much more than posing for the camera. Which is all the fault of the vignette format. There's no challenge to be overcome. Nothing that plays out over the course of the script -- not much to act.

Audience reaction? Well, towards the end one woman in the row I was sitting in began to laugh. Which started her friends giggling and laughing. And it just did not stop. Cranky admits that even he was distracted, and he had lost interest many minutes earlier. The laughter was enough to get one woman in the back to yell, "Would you please shut up!" Make of it what you will.

Waiting to Exhale is not aimed at me. Yes, I am a single guy. And I would like to think I am not a moron (though after the above, some of you may think so). There's enough that's enjoyable in WAITING (the first half) that it works fine as a date movie. Though not more than once. It should work better when it gets to the videotape, so I can quietly leave the room lest I take a sharp elbow in my gut, and plug in headphones to listen to the killer soundtrack.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Waiting to Exhale, he would have paid . . .


(the cost of a rental)

(. . .and yes, I was well aware that WTE is typed as a "woman's movie" so I asked my best friend to come along with me. But she was busy with her boyfriend so I went stag. Make of it what you will.)

Click to buy films by Forest Whitaker
Click to buy films starring Angela Bassett
Click to buy films starring Lela Rochon
Click to buy music by Whitney Houston

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