It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale mesmerized its readers with vivid descriptions of what a black woman wants in her man, and how hard it is to find it. Women loved it; men were not so thrilled. A friend of mine suggested that the male version of Waiting to Exhale would be much shorter: "What I'm looking for in a woman is someone who's great in bed, and then turns into a six-pack and a pizza." That is, of course, exactly the problem: The women in Waiting to Exhale are tired of being treated as disposable commodities by men who will tell them anything before sex and have nothing to say afterward.
As the movie version opens, broadcast executive Savannah (Whitney Houston) is driving from Denver, where there are apparently no men worth having, to Phoenix, where she hopes there are. Soon she's playing hostess in her new home to a married man who has been saying for years he's about to leave his wife. Also in Phoenix are her three good girlfriends: Bernadine (Angela Bassett), whose husband is about to leave her for his white secretary; Gloria (Loretta Devine), who has centered her life around her son, putting on pounds in the meantime, and Robin (Lela Rochon), successful in business but not in love.
During the course of "Waiting to Exhale," all of these women will either find what they're looking for, or learn to look for something better. And they'll do it with dialogue, wardrobes and settings that owe a lot to soap opera: These are not real women so much as fictional creations carefully designed to embody dreams and desires. Many of the women in the audience would be happy to be like any of these women, man or no man.
The cast listing includes a lot of men, who pop up and disappear like ducks in a shooting gallery. Savannah may always have Kenneth (Dennis Haysbert) in her life; he flies in several times a year, telling suave lies to his wife on a cellular phone while promising Savannah that a divorce is imminent.