Waiting to Exhale - * * 1/2*

Adequate film job of Terry McMillan’s novel about the romantic trials of four black women. Angela Bassett is Bernadine, whose husband just left her for a white woman. Whitney Houston is Savannah, a newcomer to Phoenix, hoping to finally find some decent men. Lela Rochon is Robin, a sexpot who can’t seem to find the right guy. And Loretta Devine is Gloria, a single mother struggling to raise her son. Of the myriad men who drift in and out of their lives, only two are portrayed in any kind of positive light. Forrest Whitaker’s directorial debut hints at talent, yet he can’t resist some quick jabs into sappy material. Rather than analyzing the mindset of women who are sick and tired of being treated like objects, he throws dysfunctional man after dysfunctional man at the audience. This tactic succeeds at enlivining the empathy of the audience towards the women, but fails to convey any sense of understanding the reasons behind the problems. Of the four women, two do shine. Angela Bassett smolders in her role as the deservedly bitter ex-wife. And Loretta Devine surprises with her charmingly positive portrayal of the single mother. Overall, the film never quite hints at answers or even much comprehension of the problems, but it should fit the bill for those looking for empathic communion, or those simply wanting to bash men.

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