Waiting to Exhale

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Waiting to Exhale
Theatrical release poster
Directed byForest Whitaker
Screenplay byTerry McMillan
Ronald Bass
Based onWaiting to Exhale
by Terry McMillan
Produced by
CinematographyToyomichi Kurita
Edited byRichard Chew
Music byKenneth "Babyface" Edmonds
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 22, 1995 (1995-12-22)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$16 million
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 & 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.


Four friends (Savannah, Robin, Bernadine, and Gloria) get together frequently to support one another and listen to each other vent about life and love. They each want to be in a romantic relationship, but they each have difficulties finding a good man.

Successful television producer Savannah "Vannah" Jackson believes that one day her married lover will leave his wife for her. She later realizes that he won't, and that she must find her own man who will love her for who she really is.

Bernadine "Bernie" Harris, who abandoned her career dream of having a catering business, instead raised a family and supported her husband John in building his business. He announces he is leaving her for a white woman with whom he works, sending her into an emotional tailspin that culminates in the two fighting over their assets after she burns his car, clothes and some of his other belongings, and then sells the rest of his things for a dollar each, and he retaliates by draining their bank accounts.

Robin Stokes is a high-powered executive and the long-time mistress of married Russell. After dumping him, she has problems finding someone suitable.

Beauty salon owner Gloria "Glo" Matthews is a single mother. Her ex-husband and the father of her son tells her that he was always bisexual and now realizes he is gay. Gloria eventually falls in love with a new neighbor, Marvin King.

The situations all resolve themselves for the better. Savannah ends up permanently dumping her married lover. Bernadine gets a large divorce settlement from her ex-husband and finds love with a widowed civil rights attorney who encourages her 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 apologizes to her neighbor for snapping at him when he suggested that she should let her son grow up and experience the world. She learns not to be so protective of her son and lets him go on an "Up with People" trip to Spain. She finds love while learning to take care of herself rather than being self-sacrificing in her devotion to her son and her business.


  • Whitney Houston as Savannah Jackson, a successful television producer who after few failed relationships, decides to move from Denver, Colorado to Phoenix, Arizona
  • Angela Bassett as Bernadine Harris, a mother of two children with dreams of starting a catering business shelved by her 11-year marriage to her husband, only for him to drop a bomb: he's divorcing her for his white bookkeeper.
  • Loretta Devine as Gloria Matthews, a beauty salon owner & single mother of Tarik
  • Lela Rochon as Robin Stokes, an executive and the long-time mistress of Russell
  • Gregory Hines as Marvin King, Gloria's neighbor with whom she falls in love, decides to move from Nevada to Phoenix, Arizona
  • Dennis Haysbert as Kenneth Dawkins, Savannah's married lover
  • Mykelti Williamson as Troy, Robin's one-time lover
  • Michael Beach as John Harris Sr., Bernie's husband who leaves her for a white woman
  • Donald Adeosun Faison as Tarik Matthews, Gloria's teenage son
  • Leon Robinson as Russell, Robin's long-time married lover
  • Wendell Pierce as Michael Davenport, Robin's co-worker and one-night stand
  • Jeffrey D. Sams as Lionel, Savannah's New Year's Eve date
  • Jazz Raycole as Onika Harris, Bernadine & John Sr.'s daughter
  • Brandon Hammond as John Harris Jr., Bernadine & John Sr.'s son
  • Kenya Moore as Denise, Lionel's "friend" who sees Savannah as a rival
  • Lamont Johnson as Joseph, Lionel's "friend"
  • Starletta DuPois as "Ma", Savannah's mother who wants her daughter with a man, preferably Kenneth
  • Kelly Preston as Kathleen, John Sr.'s bookkeeper for whom he's leaving his wife Bernadine (uncredited)
  • Wesley Snipes as James Wheeler, a civil rights attorney Bernadine shares an intimate moment with (uncredited)
  • Giancarlo Esposito as David Matthews, Gloria's ex-husband and father of Tarik (uncredited)



Parts of the film were shot at Monument Valley in Utah as well as Chandler, Fountain Hills, Phoenix and Paradise Valley in Arizona.[1]


The soundtrack album to the film features exclusively female African-American artists. The soundtrack includes the number-one hit songs "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)", sung by the film's star, Whitney Houston,[2] 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.[3]


Box office[edit]

Waiting to Exhale was a financial success, opening at number one at the North American box office and grossing $14.1 million its first weekend of release.[4] 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.[5] Its widest release was just over 1,400 theatres, and it was the 26th highest-grossing film of 1995.[5]

Critical response[edit]

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."[6] 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."[7] 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."[8] The film is notable for having an all-African-American cast. The Los Angeles Times called it a "social phenomenon".[9] The film received a 61% approval rating at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 31 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Waiting to Exhale looks at life's ups and downs from an underseen perspective -- albeit one that's poorly served by uneven acting and a sporadically interesting story."[7]

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.[10]


Proposed sequel[edit]

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.[11] However, the 2012 death of Whitney Houston halted plans for a sequel starring all four of the original leads.

Television adaptation[edit]

In November 2020, it was reported that ABC was developing a television series adaptation of film. The series will be produced by 20th Television with Lee Daniels as executive producer, under a deal of Daniels at 20th Television.[12]


  1. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  2. ^ Whitney Houston Billboard.com Retrieved 2010-2-21
  3. ^ Waiting to Exhale - Original...(1995), Billboard.com. Retrieved 2010-2-21
  4. ^ Dutka, Elaine (1995-12-25). "It's a Big Sigh of Relief for Exhale: Box office: Whitney Houston film opens strongly and could take in $11 million or more for the four-day weekend. 'Nixon' and 'Cutthroat Island' perform poorly". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  5. ^ a b WAITING TO EXHALE Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-2-21
  6. ^ Waiting to Exhale (1995) Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-2-21
  7. ^ a b Waiting to Exhale (1995) Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-2-21
  8. ^ Waiting to Exhale (1995) Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-2-21
  9. ^ Dutka, Elaine. "The Money's Where the Action Is; Movies: Big budgets and special effects push the film industry to yet another record performance", Los Angeles Times. May 22, 2006. December 31, 1996.
  10. ^ John H. McWhorter. "Marrying Out". City Journal.
  11. ^ Zakarin, Jordan (9 May 2011). "'Waiting To Exhale' Sequel: Whitney Houston Returns With Forest Whitaker". HuffPost Entertainment. HuffingtonPost.com. Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  12. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (November 18, 2020). "'Waiting To Exhale' TV Series Reboot Produced By Lee Daniels Lands At ABC With Penalty". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 19, 2020.

External links[edit]