|Waiting to Exhale|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Forest Whitaker|
|Produced by||Terry McMillan|
|Screenplay by||Terry McMillan|
|Based on||Waiting for Exhale|
by Terry McMillan
|Music by||Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds|
|Edited by||Richard Chew|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$82 million|
Waiting to Exhale is a 1995 American romance film directed by Forest Whitaker (in his feature film directorial debut) and starring Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett. The film was adapted from the 1992 novel of the same name by Terry McMillan. Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Beach, Gregory Hines, Donald Faison, and Mykelti Williamson rounded out the rest of the cast. The original music score was composed by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. The story centers on four women living in the Phoenix, Arizona area and their relationships with men and one another. All of them are "holding their breath" until the day they can feel comfortable in a committed relationship with a man.
Waiting to Exhale is a story about four Black women who are good friends: Savannah, Robin, Bernadine, and Gloria. The four women get together frequently to provide support, and to listen to each other vent about life and love. They all want to be in a couple but they all have difficulties finding a good man.
Savannah "'Vannah" Jackson is a successful television producer who believes that one day her married lover will leave his wife for her. She later realizes he will never leave his wife, and that she must find her own man who will love her for who she really is.
Bernadine "Bernie" Harris had abandoned her own career dream of having a catering business -- instead she raised a family and supported her husband, who then announces he is leaving her for a white woman he works with.
Robin Stokes is a high-powered executive, and the long-time mistress of married Russell. She has problems finding someone suitable after she dumps Russell.
Gloria "Glo" Matthews is a beauty salon owner and a single mother. Her ex-husband, who is also the father of her son, tells her he was always bisexual and now realizes he is actually gay. Gloria eventually falls in love with a new neighbor, Marvin King.
The situations all resolve themselves for the better. Savannah ends up dumping her married lover for good. Bernadine gets a large divorce settlement from her ex-husband. She finds love with a widowed father who is a civil rights attorney and who encourages Bernie to pursue her catering dream.
Robin ends up pregnant by her married lover, but dumps him, and chooses to raise the baby on her own.
Gloria learns not to be so overprotective to her son. She lets him go on an "Up With People" trip to Spain. She apologizes to her neighbor for snapping at him when he suggested that she should let her son grow up and experience the world, and she finds love while learning to take care of herself rather than being overly self-sacrificing in her devotion to her son and her business.
Waiting to Exhale was a financial success, opening at number-one at the North American box office, grossing $14.1 million in its first weekend of release. In total, the film grossed $67.05 million in North America, and $14.4 million internationally, for a total worldwide gross of $81.45 million. Its widest release was in just over 1,400 theatres and was the 26th highest-grossing film of 1995.
Upon release, the film received mixed reviews from critics. Film critic Susan Stark from The Detroit News stated, "For all the pleasure there is in seeing effective, great-looking black women grappling with major life issues on screen, Waiting to Exhale is an uneven piece." Reviewer Liam Lacey from The Daily Globe and Mail wrote of the film, "[It] never escapes the queasy aura of Melrose Place: just another story about naive people with small problems." However, film critic Roger Ebert positively reviewed the film, stating that it is "an escapist fantasy that women in the audience can enjoy by musing, 'I wish I had her problems'--and her car, house, wardrobe, figure and men, even wrong men." The film is notable for having an all-African-American cast. The Los Angeles Times called it a "social phenomenon". The film received a 56% approval rating at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 27 reviews.
In the book Is Marriage for White People? writer and Stanford Law School professor Ralph Richard Banks states that the film is a perfect example of the problems African-American women have in finding serious relationships.
The soundtrack to the film featured exclusively female African-American artists. The soundtrack included the number-one hit songs "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)", sung by the film's star, Whitney Houston, and "Let It Flow" by Toni Braxton as well as "Not Gon' Cry" by Mary J. Blige, "Sittin' Up in My Room" by Brandy, and "Count on Me" by Whitney Houston and CeCe Winans, all of which reached the top ten of Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
Interviewed in the spring of 2011 on an episode of The Talk, Angela Bassett confirmed that a sequel was in the planning stages, with all the female principals signed on to star, and Whitaker returning to direct. The film would supposedly be based on McMillan's 2010 follow-up novel, Getting to Happy; McMillan was adapting the book to screenplay.. Whitney Houston died in 2012 so the sequel cannot have all four of the original four leads.