Director: Forest Whitaker
Cast: Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Lela Rochon, Dennis Haysbert, Gregory Hines, Donald Faison, Wesley Snipes
Released: December 22, 1995
It's always frustrating when you're about to watch a movie with four women as the leads and the only thing they talk about with each other is men and their relationships with men. This is one of those movies and they literally talk about nothing else. Sometimes you think they're going to talk about their jobs or something else, but the conversation will always veer back to men and how much men suck. I read the book right before I saw the movie and it's probably even worse because there's more of it. At least with the movie there are a few parts they took out for time. I had to laugh at one scene in the book where two characters are talking about (what else?) men and one of them says something like, "Can we please change the topic? We always talk about men" and I'm thinking, yeah, no sh*t, you really do, and then what happens? They go back to talking about men! :::bangs head against the table::: If I were friends with these women, I would be like, Please, for the love of God, please stop talking about your sh*tty boyfriends and the sh*tty men who want to date you! Don't you have any other interests? Apparently not.
So let me go through each character. We'll start with Bernadine who is played by Angela Bassett. She'll start out with long hair, but will get her hair cut pretty early in the film. It's kind of funny because her hair dresser friend, Gloria, doesn't want to cut her hair, so Bernadine cuts it herself and she ends up looking fabulous! She looks much better with short hair than she did with long hair. Of all the characters, she has the right to be the angriest at the man who screwed her over. Her storyline is her and her husband, John, are going through a nasty divorce. When we first meet her, she's getting ready to go to a New Year's party at her husband's office. When he suggests that they don't go, she looks relieved because she'd rather stay home, but then he tells her that HE is still going, but just with HER, meaning his secretary that he's having an affair with. Now she seemed to know who he meant so I was a little unclear of how long this affair had been going on and how long she had known about it. Were they going through with the divorce at this time, but were trying to keep up appearances for their kids' sake? I wasn't really sure about that. All we know is that he's leaving his wife of eleven years for a white woman. In the book, not only she is white, but she's supposed to be much younger, like mid-twenties. She's played by Kelly Preston in a cameo role who isn't that much younger than Angela Bassett in real life. It is made into a very big deal (especially more so in the book) that he is leaving her for a white woman. He even asks her if it would be better if he was leaving her for a black woman, to which she says no. I'm guessing they put that in because in the book I was kind of wondering the same thing. They almost make it seem (in both the movie and the book) that interracial relationships are much worse than, you know, cheating on your spouse. Three out of the four women in this commit adultery - yikes! And only one feels like she's doing something wrong. Besides cheating on his wife, John is just not a good guy. We learn a lot about him through exposition (done pretty obviously) when Bernadine is tossing a bunch of his clothes and other belongings in his car which she will set on fire. He is very successful with his own business (I don't really remember the specifics) that Bernadine helped him start and is a big reason of the success of it, even though he never acknowledges that. We learn in a throw away line that she wants to start her own catering business (even though we never see her cook and she never, ever talks about it with any of her friends), but John never allowed her to because he needed her to help with his company. Even though John is super successful which is evident from the house they live in, it turns out he has a lot more money that he was hiding from his wife. Not only that, but we find out, along with Bernadine, that he also owns an apartment building (!), 200 acres of farmland in California (!!), and a vineyard in Arizona (!!!). She is finding this out for the first time, despite being married him for eleven years! He tells her to sell the house for money and offers to give her $300,000 on the spot, which seems like a lot, but she knows she can get more than that. She will find out that everything he purchased in the last ten years is in his name only, including the business that she helped build. Yeah, this guy is a douche bag and it makes me wonder if he was always this awful throughout their whole marriage or if she is just figuring this out. We're just kind of thrown into their marital problems so we don't really know about why they were together for so long. Bernadine comes off as very strong and confident, it really doesn't make sense why she was ever with this guy. She is also supposed to be super business-savvy, so the scene where she's having a garage sale and selling all of her husband's things (the stuff she didn't burn!) for one dollar each (including skis, golf clubs, and a CAR of all things) doesn't make any sense. This guy has some pretty nice stuff; WHY is she selling it only for a dollar? She could have been making a nice mini fortune, instead of getting, like, fifty dollars at the end of the day. I know, I know, it's supposed to be a statement that she's selling all his nice stuff so cheaply, but I don't think she really thought it through.
So now that John is trying to cheat Bernadine out of her fair share of their money, what does she do? Does she throw all of her anger into creating her catering business she has always wanted to started? Nope, she goes out with the girls one night at a club and starts dancing with a handsome man named Herbert who's an ex-football player and now is a sportscaster. Oh, and he's MARRIED. And it's not like she's just "friendly" dancing with him, no, she is all over him. She even tells her friends, "His wife's at home, he better watch out for me." She does end up sleeping with him. Um, does she even remember when she slapped the woman her husband is sleeping with? So by every right, Herbert's wife should be able to slap her. But as far as the movie is concerned, Mrs. Herbert never finds out. I guess Bernadine thinks it's okay to sleep with him since it doesn't mean anything, while her husband's adultery feels like more betrayal since he is leaving her to marry the other woman? :::shrug::: It sounds like she only slept with Herbert once (while in the book, it's way more than once), but he is calling and paging (hehe, how' 90s!) at "all hours of the night" and even showed up to her house unannounced. Geeze, this guy fell for her fast and hard.
At the settlement, Bernadine wins big when she is rewarded 1.5 million dollars, $500,000 in stocks and bonds, a Mercedes station wagon, the house, and another house in Acapulco, Mexico. Hmmm, I almost think her husband cheating on her is the best thing that could ever happen to her! I'm sure there's a throwaway line about her starting her catering business, but I could be thinking about the book.
Next, we'll discuss Savannah, played by Whitney Houston. Now if you just watched the movie without having read the book, you might miss the part where she is moving from Denver to Phoenix, where the movie is set. In a very quick scene, you see her driving a car and in a voiceover she says she's moving because "all the men are dead" in Denver. Savannah, we all know you're moving to Phoenix because you got a job there. Also, because your friend, Bernadine, lives there. So in the book, she is introduced to the two other women (and is extremely judgmental of them, especially Robin, my God!), but in the movie, she's never introduced to them. We just see her interacting with them as though she's known them all her life. It almost feels like she used to live in Phoenix, moved to Denver, then moved back to Phoenix. They really just should have had this character be from Phoenix the entire time. One of the things that drove me f***king crazy in the book is that all the characters kept bitching about how boring Phoenix was and how much they hated it there. And it wasn't like it was one line, no, it was often repeated. Y'all are f**king fictional characters; you can live anywhere you want; STFU and just MOVE! Thankfully they took all that out in the movie.
So Savannah gets to say the title of the movie. Of course she does since she's played by Whitney Houston (btw, there is a scene in the book where that character is listening to Whitney Houston...super weird!) It comes super early. She's at a New Year's Eve party slow dancing with a man named Lionel who she's met at the party as a blind date set up. You could say she wants to dance with somebody, she wants to feel the heat with somebody, yeah, she wants to dance with somebody - with somebody who loves her. Anyway, in a super cheesy voiceover, she says, "And then I did it....I closed my eyes and I exhaled and pretended the man was mine and he was everything I dreamed of." Okay, so technically she didn't say the actual title, but she got to exhale after waiting so long for a good man to come along. Now don't get too excited. We're not even ten minutes into the movie; there's no way this is the man she's been waiting all her life for. In fact, right after their dance, another woman comes up to them and tells Lionel he hasn't danced with her yet and Lionel introduced her to Savannah as "his friend". Yeah, whatever.
We do find out that Lionel called Savannah after their date and they end up going out and sleeping together. We also learn that Savannah finds out she doesn't even like the guy, but is so desperate to get laid, she just deals with the stuff that irritates her about him which includes finding out he has no income (yep, that's a deal breaker!), he chain smokes (she smokes too; but she seems to be more of a social smoker...I was kind of surprised that three out of the four women smoke in this!); brags about being a vegetarian, but inhaled three hots dogs (dude, you're not a vegetarian, then!) and she gave him twenty dollars for gas which only cost $7.18 (for gas, can you imagine! Oh, to be living in 1995 (much better than 2020, am I right?!?!) and he didn't even give her any change.
He quickly disappears and Savannah's ex, Kenneth, calls her out of the blue, telling her he's coming to Phoenix for a conference and would like to see her. On paper, Kenneth seems like a great catch. He's good-looking, well educated, I want to say he's a doctor, maybe? He's also going to be the POTUS in a few years and fight some terrorism alongside Jack Bauer cuz he's played by Dennis Haysbert aka President David Palmer aka the All State guy. Unfortunately, Savannah was NOT in good hands with him! (I can't take credit for that joke!) The man is married, for one thing, and has a seven-year-old daughter. He tells Savannah that he married his wife when she was five months pregnant. I'm not really sure why they broke up in the first place. He tells Savannah that she is the only woman he's ever loved (so he married a woman he didn't even love? Yes, I realize it's complicated cuz there's a child involved). We get a super cheesy sex scene between them with lots of slow motion and a slow song.
Savannah calls one of her friends, asking, "How will I know if he really loves me? I'm asking you cuz you know about these things." Kenneth calls his wife, telling her he's going to have to probably visit Phoenix a few more times for more "conferences", uh-huh. He keeps telling Savannah he's going to divorce his wife for her, but of course, he never does and she soon realizes it's never going to happen. The real kicker is when he tells her she's going to have to wait a little bit longer because his wife is having a baby. It's like, dude, are you serious?
Guess who my least favorite character in this movie is. You'd think it would be one of the many loser men that these women keep finding themselves attracting, but nope, it was Savannah's mother. This woman....ugh. First of all, she's the one who gave Kenneth Savannah's number even though she knew the man was married. When Savannah mentions this, she says, "How happy can he be if he went and found me to get to you?" She tells her, "Every woman needs a man", which is not only extremely sexist and setting feminism back about fifty years, but also a little bit homophobic, no? I'm just saying if Savannah told her mom she was with a woman, I don't think she'd take it very well. After Savannah tells Kenneth once and for all to get out of her life for good, her mother calls her to tell her that Kenneth called her, crying, and tells her, "Men don't cry over woman unless they love them" and asks her how she could be so insensitive. Why is Savannah's mother taking this man's side over her own daughter's? I feel like she's the one who's being insensitive! Savannah tells her, "I am sick of you telling me how I should live my life, who you think I should love, marry. I'm sick of it!" I'm all, Yes! You tell her, Savannah! And then her mom has the gall to say, "It isn't too late! He's begging on his knees and you're letting him get away." Again, why is her mother not listening to her? Savannah tells her, "I have a job. I have friends. I have interests you don't even ask about. (She does?) Only one thing counts with you, Mama." She tells her mom that she should be proud that she'd rather live alone then crawl up behind some two timing loser like Kenneth. This woman keeps defending Kenneth! She tells her daughter "He's a good man, he's just in a bad situation right now and trying to get out of it." Savannah snaps at her "Why don't you f**king marry him, then?" and hangs up on her. Oooooh, burn! She does call her back to apologize because the movie has established that they do have a good relationship even though her mother sucks. She tells her she didn't mean to disrespect her, but she meant what she said about her life. He mom tells her she just doesn't want her to end up alone like her. What happened with her and her husband? I don't know. But maybe stop trying to set up your daughter with married men.
I should probably mention the theme song since Whitney Houston (duh, obviously) sings it. It's played in the movie for about sixty seconds when she's about to meet Kenneth and then we never hear it again. It's possible it's played during the ending credits after "Count on Me" which is the first song that's played as the credits roll, but I didn't watch all the credits to find out. I like the song just fine, but I feel like when it was written, they couldn't think of any lyrics during the "Shoop, shoop, shoop, shoop de doop" part so they just made up words and just forgot to go back and put in actual words.
Now let's talk about Robin played by Lela Rochan. She's dating a married man (of course) named Russell who she's very attracted to. Well, I don't know if "dating" is the right word because he's the one who decides when they're going to meet and when it's most convenient for him. She is trying to meet other men so we see her in her bedroom with Michael, a man she works with at an insurance company where he's been promoted to her marketing team. I don't know if they've been on a couple dates before or if she works this fast. Something tells me it's the latter because she is clearly not attracted to him. He is a little bit overweight and has an extremely annoying personality. They have sex even though she is clearly not enjoying it. Why is she sleeping with a man she's not attracted to or even likes? I don't know. Because she's stupid. It's a good thing she's pretty. They're trying to make it a hilarious scene, but really, it's just awkward and uncomfortable. There's a moment when she thinks, "I could have had a V8". She'd rather have a blended vegetable drink than have sex with that man. Again, why are you sleeping with him?? These are the moments when I really hate this movie. Afterwards, Robin has this stone cold look on her face and Michael asks her how it was for her. Dude, read the f**king room! He tells her, "Tell me what you want, what you need. Because whatever it is, I'm gonna see you have it." The things she says do make sense, but the way this speech is said is a bit odd. Let me list each point she makes:
-First she says she wants a house in Scottsdale and Michael tells her he has a house there. Okay, that's fine.
-Next, she says she wants to get married and have kids, again, which is fine.
-Then, she says she wants to eat out 2-3 times a WEEK! At first, I thought she was going to say a month, but no, A WEEK! What the actual f**k? Does that seem a little extreme to anyone? She's not going to be able to maintain her figure if she goes out to eat that many times a week! Why does she need to eat out that many times in a week? Why is this the third thing she lists?
-Then she tells him she wants to have babies. Um, you mentioned this already in your first point when she said you wanted kids. Same thing.
-Then she mentions she would like to go away for long weekends. Okay, fair enough.
-Then, AGAIN, for the THIRD time, she says she wants to have a family. We get it! You want to get married and have kids. You've already told him this like five seconds ago!!
-Then she ends that she wants to be happy which is a good way to end this terrible speech. I mean, seriously, where were the editors for this screenplay? Did they not realize she was being super redundant in this? Also the whole eating out thing was weird. Yes, it's in the book, but we don't always have to keep everything from the book. She only mentions wanting kids once, though, in the book.
Michael tells her he can give her all that, plus more, and they have much better sex. However, their relationship doesn't go anywhere. She ends up firing him because he challenges her or something. I wasn't quite clear, but they break up. When she's out with her friends at a club and sees him entering with another woman, she looks super jealous.
She starts dating another guy, Troy, who she picked up at a grocery store and who she's much more attracted to. They've known each other for only three days and I don't know which is more surprising: a) that he wants her to meet his mother already, or b) that he takes her to a coke party. And I'm not talking about the drink. It's funny because he's smoking as they're driving to the drug party and we hear her voiceover say, "I wish he didn't smoke, but I can live with one bad habit." Oh, you have no idea, honey. Run far, far, away from this one. When she finds out there are drugs at the party, she just wants to go home and eventually they do leave. She figures since this is the first time a man has asked her to meet his mother, "maybe he's not into this stuff all that much and maybe if we got to know each other better, I might be a good influence on him." Uh-huh, keep dreaming, honey. In the end, Robin decides not to meet his mother. He comes to pick her up two hours later, higher than a kite, wearing jeans and a black leather vest (in Phoenix in the summer!) and complaining how hot it is. He also mentions he has a thirteen-year-old son that she didn't know about.
So we get an interesting phone call between Robin and Savannah, who seems to know an awful lot about cocaine and the people who use it. This is a bit unfortunate; history was not kind to this scene. Robin tells Savannah she can't find her wallet and Savannah predicts that Troy took it. Robin gets another call from Russell, the man she's trying to break away from because she's just his mistress and he's never going to leave his wife, but when he asks her if she wants some company, she answers yes right away, explaining why he has her wrapped around his finger. This woman is so desperate, it's really quite nauseating. We get an explanation from Robin, telling us the last time she was with Russell, he told he he wanted to spend the whole night, except he had to take his mother to church the next morning. Please tell me she did not fall for this bs lie!
Robin, who has always wanted a baby, is pregnant with Russell's baby (again), but this time she's going to keep it and tells him she doesn't want anything from him.
Last, but not least, is Gloria, played by Loretta Devine. She is my favorite of the four women because she has the least drama. She is a hairdresser who has her own salon, but they should have made her the one with a catering company. They probably didn't do this because they didn't want to make the "fat" one of the group the one who likes to cook (even though she likes to cook). I get the feeling she's supposed to be a lot bigger in the book, maybe to the point of being obese. She has a heart attack (they took it out in the movie) and Savannah being the total judgmental bitch that she is has the gall to tell Gloria that she could probably get a man if she lost some weight. Luckily they kept this out of the movie.
Gloria has a teen son named Tarik (played by Donald Faison, who was also in Clueless the same year), who instead of going to college where he has been accepted to Arizona University, wants to travel to Spain to play the saxophone in the Up with People International Choir.
Tarik's father, David, who was never married to his mother, is coming to visit, but he doesn't want to see him because they don't have a very close relationship. He's also mad that his mother slept with him the last time he visited and she is planning on doing so again because Tarik is spending the night at a friend's. David, who is, er, was, bi-sexual, tells her he is now just gay so he has no interest in spending the night with her. When I was looking at the cast list for this movie, I saw Giancarlo Esposito's name in this and I was racking my brain, thinking of who he played, but he was David! He looked so different! I guess I'm used to seeing him as Gus Fringe in a yellow button down shirt and being super menacing. Also, after watching him in many episodes of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul; it's weird when he doesn't have an accent!
Gloria invites him over for dinner, telling him, "It's just leftovers: collard greens, corn bread, candied yams, potato salad, fried chicken ham, and peach cobbler." We see one of the meals she made; I think it was friend chicken with biscuits and cole slaw and it looked delicious; this is why she should have been the caterer. Where is Bernadine's mouth watering food? Oh, right, we never see her make anything! I do love that Gloria is the only one to end up with a man; good for her. Oh, well I guess Bernadine also ends up with a man.
One of the very few scenes where the four women are together is Gloria's birthday. We see this amazing cake, that looks like it came from a bakery, but it's possible she made it. This scene would be the perfect opportunity for them to talk about anything but men, but guess what they talk about? I'll give you one guess (because you're going to guess it correctly!) Savannah mentions that none of them have a man. Who the f**k cares? Then she says, "I'm 33 and I still look good." (FYI: she's 36 or 37 in the book). WHAT THE ACTUAL F**K??????????? What is that supposed to mean? Thirty-three is not that old; damn, I would hope you still look good at the age of 33 or else you have a huge f**king problem!! Then we get some huge whiplash from Bernadine. One minute she's about to angry call her husband's new girlfriend, then she's crying, then she's giggling and laughing as they dance to "Creep" by TLC (great song). This all happens in the span of about ninety seconds.
Another scene where all four of them are together is at the end when they're headed to a New Year's party, so we've just spent an entire year with these women. The last shot is the four of them by a bonfire and there's a weird super slow motion of them hugging. Okay, I'm done with this review...I can now exhale!