1 item from 1998
as mother and daughter in Fox's 'chick flick'
By Michael Rechtshaffen
Making good on the feature directorial promise of "Waiting to Exhale", Forest Whitaker deftly handles the dramatic and comedic elements of Steven Rogers' neatly unencumbered script, allowing the cast ample opportunity to shine.
After her best friend informs her during an appearance on the trashy "Toni Post Show" that she has been having an affair with her husband, Bullock's Birdee Pruitt grabs her daughter Bernice (Mae Whitman) and seeks solace in her hometown of Smithville, Texas, where she was a three-time beauty queen.
But maybe moving back in with her mom, Ramona (Rowlands), wasn't such a great idea. In possession of a somewhat forceful personality and long considered the town eccentric (a reputation not exactly unearned considering her hobby of dressing up her taxidermist husband's handiwork and giving it names like Scaredy-Cat), Ramona refuses to watch her self-deflated daughter wallow in self-pity.
Much to Birdee's protest, Ramona attempts to set her up with her old high school crush, Justin Matisse (OK, so the names are just a little precious), played with trademark gee-whiz likability by Harry Connick Jr. But Birdee and her bespectacled daughter still haven't come to terms with the fact that Mr. Pruitt (Michael Pare) isn't going to come crawling back to them.
Playing opposite the always-exquisite Rowlands gives Bullock a chance to stretch and reach for higher emotional stakes, and she admirably rises to the challenge, helping to break some comfortable habits that threatened to border on shtick in recent outings.
The structure and pacing aren't always as effective as they could be, but credit Whitaker for coaxing fine, understated performances from not only his adult cast but also impressive child actors Whitman ("One Fine Day") and Cameron Finley ("Leave It to Beaver"), who are never less than completely natural in their demanding emoting.
Fine also is the resonant cinematography (courtesy of frequent Oscar nominee Caleb Deschanel) and Dave Grusin's light-touch score. Not quite so subtle is the song selection assembled by Whitaker and Don Was, which -- while featuring some nice work by Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Lyle Lovett -- can be a little too literal in underscoring the on-screen moods.
20th Century Fox
A Lynda Obst production
in association with Fortis Films
A Forest Whitaker film
Credits: Director: Forest Whitaker; Producer: Lynda Obst; Screenwriter: Steven Rogers; Executive producers: Mary McLaglen, Sandra Bullock; Director of photography: Caleb Deschanel; Production designer: Larry Fulton; Editor: Richard Chew; Costume designer: Susie DeSanto; Music: Dave Grusin; Executive soundtrack producers: Don Was, Forest Whitaker; Casting: Ronnie Yeskel. Cast: Birdee Pruitt: Sandra Bullock; Justin Matisse: Harry Connick Jr.; Ramona Calvert: Gena Rowlands; Bernice Pruitt: Mae Whitman; Travis: Cameron Finley; Bill Pruitt: Michael Pare; Harry Calvert: James N. Harrell. MPAA rating: PG-13. Color/stereo. Running time -- 110 minutes
1 item from 1998
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