Last night my neighbor and I grabbed late dinner, and when we got back to his house, he had “Waiting to Exhale” on Bravo paused on the DVR. I had no idea how bad this movie was. So much voiceover work; the cuts between the scenes and “phone conversation” staging straight out of student films (and by “student” I mean “fifth-grader”); entire plott-changing developments materialize out of thin air. (Divorce hearing #1: “You get $3,000 a month to live on, even though your mortgage is $5,000 a month.” Divorce hearing #2: “After reviewing these recent, apparently damning but never brought up documents, you get millions and millions of dollars, two houses, and a Mercedes station wagon.”)
But because it’s set in Phoenix, we watched the whole rest of the movie and tried to recognize the settings. To recast the subject line, here are five things I learned from (finally) watching (almost all of) “Waiting to Exhale” (on Bravo) last night. …
1. The only good white woman is a dying one. Especially if she is dying off-camera, and her husband talks about how he loves her so much, she’s the light of his life, that that obvious thing to do to is sleep with Angela Bassett. While his wife is home, dying. (You know, breast cancer is so hard on supportive husbands!) And by “sleep,” I mean sleep, because when the camera pans back to the couple on top of the bed, they’re both fully dressed. She still has her hose and shoes on. Despite this, Wesley Snipes falls so deeply for her that he writes her love letters. While his wife is dying. I like to imagine he’s doing it at her bedside, because he cares for her that much.
2. “Waiting to Exhale” was “Sex and the City” for black women. (“Waiting to Exhale” came first, BTW.) Both feature four completely different women — each of whom is an archetype that’s been stretched so thinly I’m surprised you can’t see right through her skin right down to her veins — who hang out together and support each other while drinking.
3. Cigarette smoke can be distracting. Angela Bassett’s character spends a lot of time smoking — conveys rage! — and the smoke keeps drifting every which way. After a while I wasn’t even paying attention to the dialogue — because trust me, you don’t need to — and instead was wondering how Wesley Snipes kept from choking and gagging during their scene at the bar.
4. Biltmore Fashion Park really needed that makeover. So did three-quarters of the decor in that movie, actually.
5. Whitney Houston is an awful actress. The cigarette smoke was better than she was. [Turns to mirror, says “girlfriend” flatly.]