The Waterdance (1992) Poster

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Realistic story and tremendous ensemble acting
doeadear5 August 1999
This film never received the attention it deserved, although this is one of the finest pieces of ensemble acting, and one of the most realistic stories I have seen on screen. Clearly filmed on a small budget in a real V.A. Hospital, the center of the story is Joel, very well-played by Eric Stoltz. Joel has been paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, and comes to the hospital to a ward with other men who have spinal injuries. Joel is in love with Anna, his married lover, played by Helen Hunt, who shows early signs of her later Academy-Award winning work.

Although the Joel-Anna relationship is the basic focus, there are many other well-developed characters in the ward. Wesley Snipes does a tremendous job as the angry Raymond. Even more impressive is William Forsythe as the bitter and racist Bloss. I think Forsythe's two best scenes are when he becomes frustrated and angry at the square dancers, and, later, when he feels empathy for a young Korean man who has been shot in a liquor store hold up. My favorite scene with Snipes is the in the roundtable discussion of post-injury sexual options.

The chemistry between Stoltz and Hunt is very strong, and they have two very intimate, but not gratuitous, sex scenes. The orgasm in the ward is both sexy and amusing. There is also another memorable scene where Joel and Bloss and the Korean boy take the specially-equipped van to the strip bar. It's truly a comedy of errors as they make their feeble attempts to get the van going to see the "naked ladies."

The story is made even more poignant by the fact that the director, Neal Jimenez, is paralyzed in real life. This is basically his story. This film is real, not glossy or flashy. To have the amount of talent in a film of such a small budget is amazing. I recommend this film to everyone I see, because it is one of those films that even improves on a second look. It's a shame that such a great piece of work gets overlooked, but through video, perhaps it can get the attention it so richly deserves.
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A sensitive eye-opener
MeYesMe14 August 1998
This was one of those films I probably never would have picked off the shelf , but it came on IFC one day and I said - Eric Stolz, William Forsythe...why not? If I'd changed the channel, I would have really missed a treasure.

The subject is depressing - young author paralyzed in climbing accident convalesces in lower-class rehabilitation center. It would have been so easy and tempting to make this a manipulative tear-jerker. But, that doesn't happen because it was written by Neal Jimenez, after he himself was accidently paralyzed. No Hollywood happiness here. All of the patients in the ward come from wildly different backgrounds, but they share a feeling of helplessness, of being at the mercy of others. Stolz is very good as a "lone wolf" type, forced into embarrassing dependence on his girlfriend (Helen Hunt); Wesley Snipes is fine as a former ladies' man whose family is falling apart; but William Forsythe takes the cake as a tough guy determined to make someone pay for taking away his independence.

See this film.
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Funny and poignant
hausrathman8 January 2004
Eric Stoltz, Wesley Snipes and William Forsythe play three very different men brought together into a hospital ward after each of them has received a paralyzing injury. This is a great film based on the true life experiences of writer/co-director Neil Jiminez. This isn't your typical, sappy, uplifting film about men overcoming personal tragedy. The characters here aren't idealized. They aren't saints. They are alternately angry, confused, prejudiced, self-pitying or funny: in other words, real human beings. This is perhaps the best film ever about men in wheelchairs, but don't let that image scare you. This film is both funny and poignant. Don't miss it.
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I loved working on this film!
jeff-1901 May 1999
I loved working on this film with Neal and Michael. It was gold in my hands, and I knew it. Cut on film, the script and performances were superb, and I am so glad to see your reviewer gave Mr. Forsythe his due, as I absolutely loved him in this film. The first day of dailies he came up to me, leaned into me very closely and said "Choices, Jeff, choices", and then walked away. His choices were wonderful, and he won best actor at the Houston Film Festival, and the film took the Audience Award and the Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992. Neal was wonderful to work with, and is still a close friend, and that cannot be said of too many in this fickle town. He wrote a great script, and he and Mike got the performances of a lifetime out of everyone. Eric, Helen Hunt, one of Wesley Snipe's best to this day, and it was wonderful to be a part of the experience that was Neal's life. It was also interesting that Gale Anne Hurd, of action movie fame (Terminator, etc.), chose to produce it and get the film made. When it won at Sundance she threw her arms around me and said "We did it!" Neal, of course, was the man who did it, but it was great to be along on that ride. Jeff Freeman
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A true-to-life story of rehabilitation
rick4897 September 1998
Warning: Spoilers
As a disabled person myself, I have seen firsthand the drama told in this movie. A rehab hospital is its own private world, a world where people are transformed and adapt to a new reality. The Waterdance comes as close as possible to capturing that world and relating it in terms that the general public can understand.

The central character is an author who was paralyzed in an auto accident. Along the way, we meet the typically diverse set of characters seen in such wards who have nothing in common except similar disabilities. The similarities are not enough, and an uneasy dynamic between them develops. There is the once dapper ladies' man who is thrown from the hospital into a nursing home, where he attempts suicide. There is the man who is lucky enough to have a supportive family. There is the once tough guy who wants to get even with a suit using a lawyer gotten off a TV ad. A social order develops with its own shifting loyalties and rules.

Through it all is Joel Garcia, going through his own changes and his own Hell. He seems to adapt easily, but he falls into traps along the way. The free drugs dull his senses. He doesn't know how he will cope with his life. Most of all, he and his lover (Helen Hunt), who is married to another man, must decide whether they will stay together as they had planned.

The Waterdance is one of a handful of films that deals honestly and wisely with the issues of disability. Like them (Coming Home, The Best Years of Their Lives), it may appear depressing at first, but it also highlights how strong people can be when faced with life's greatest challenge.

I just can't understand why he gave up Helen Hunt! I wouldn't have.
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Excellent character study buoyed by exceptional Stoltz & Hunt
george.schmidt23 April 2003
THE WATERDANCE (1992) ***1/2 Eric Stoltz, Helen Hunt, Wesley Snipes, William Forsythe, Elizabeth Pena, Grace Zibriskie. Excellent character study of a young author's freak paralyzing accident opens his eyes to the challenges life truly offers despite the limitations. Ensemble work at its finest and inspired in part autobiography of co-director Neal Jiminez' fate( he co-directed with Michael Steinberg).
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Uplifting and wickedly funny.
suzy q12329 March 2001
I know, that's not what you expect from a film with this sort of

lineage- it's a direct descendant of The Best Years of Our Lives

and The Men... films dealing with men who are in the hospital

dealing with tragic circumstances. But this film is full of wonderful

surprises and performances. It features stellar performances from

Eric Stoltz and Helen Hunt (including a rather risque nude scene)

and Wesley Snipes and William Forsythe. As Emanuel Levy wrote

in his book Cinema of Outsiders (about the Independent film

movement) "The Waterdance is coherant, attentive to detail, and

unsentimental with a wicked down to earth humor- it' s at once

funny and sad, and the entire cast is impressive." I was

extraordinarily moved by this film, it's hard hitting yes, but also has

very tender moments and laugh out loud moments. A rare gem.
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Complex, powerful, moving
Keltic-216 February 2001
_Waterdance_ explores a wide variety of aspects of the life of the spinally injured artfully. From the petty torments of faulty fluorescent lights flashing overhead to sexuality, masculinity and depression, the experience of disability is laid open.

The diversity of the central characters themselves underscores the complexity of the material examined - Joel, the writer, Raymond, the black man with a murky past, and Bloss, the racist biker. At first, these men are united by nothing other than the nature of their injuries, but retain their competitive spirit. Over time, shared experience, both good and bad, brings them together as friends to support one another.

Most obvious of the transformations is that experienced by Joel, who initially distances himself from his fellow patients with sunglasses, headphones and curtains. As he comes to accept the changes that disablement has made to his life, Joel discards these props and begins to involve himself in the struggles of the men with whom he shares the ward.

The dance referred to in the title is a reference to this daily struggle to keep one's head above water; to give up the dance is to reject life. _Waterdance_ is a moving and powerful film on many levels, and I do not hesitate to recommend it.
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Very touching
kwafam4 July 2002
I flipped by this movie on late night cable and was compelled to watch it. It was about 1:00 am on a work night but I could not bring myself to turn off the TV and go to bed (I am so glad I did not.) I would have to rank this movie in my personal top 5. In spite of its obvious low budget, the story line and the actors/actresses portrayals of their characters is outstanding. I was deeply moved by the compassion of Hunt's character. It is a shame that this movie was released in '92 as it could well be a Box Office smash with today's media promotion. 2 Thumbs to the cast and crew of this masterpiece.
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An unforgettable and thrilling movie...
overmatik26 February 2005
It's funny how your life can change in a second... To attend ''The Waterdance'' for the first time it was an unforgettable experience, the way you need to get used to a new way of life it can seem frightening, and to notice that there are other people going by a similar situation it can help you to go on.

Eric Stoltz's performances and mainly of Helen Hunt (oh man!, Helen is the purest and graceful woman in earth...) are wonderful, Wesley Snipes also surprises in one of your last serious roles. A film simple and at the same time deep that doesn't get to leave us indifferent to the message that is transmitted: enjoy each moment of your life...

Really to a film as that the any hour is not attended!!! (sorry, it's a Brazilian expression...).
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