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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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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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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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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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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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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Warm, human US film. They don't make it like this anymore!
KGB-Greece-Patras16 November 2004
This is a nice surprise. Good actors deliver superbly the tough work they are meant for. They are all people with kinetic problems, recovering from accidents. They have to live with each other - yet they are so different characters.

There is depth in this film. Support, dignity, bitterness, self-sarcasm - yes, the film even dares to be humorous in some parts, and it scores again, without being stupid or anything. Actually this is a great film about a difficult subject, people having to confront a new reality: loss of half body's movements...

This is not another stupid US drama, this has got a heart!
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boiler-13 February 2003
I thought this was an excellent and very honest portrayal of paralysis and racism. This movie never panders to the audience and never gets predictable. The acting was top-notch and the movie reminded me of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".
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Get out the box of kleenex and watch this movie.
Tophee28 February 1999
Touching and sad movie. Portrays the trials and tribulations of a writer trying to come to terms with paralysis caused by a cycling accident. The film centers on his relationship with his married lover, whom he is often very hostile towards, and his interactions with other accident victims, particularly a black down-and-out and a white-supremacist biker. The film is often humorous, often sad, and always believable. Get out the box of kleenex and watch this on a cosy Sunday afternoon with your partner.
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One of my All-Time Favorites
Dougster-524 February 2002
This film lingered and lingered at a small movie theater in town, and the word-of-mouth buzz got me to see it. A comedy about disabled people - the subject matter keeps lots of people away from a funny and heart-warming film.
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Should Have Been A Lot Nicer Than This
ccthemovieman-113 June 2007
This story had a different angle that intrigued me, enough to buy a previously-viewed VHS sight-unseen. That was a mistake.

In what could have been a very nice story - about badly crippled people at a hospital, and their various personalities - turned quickly into a very profane soap opera with unlikeable characters.

We have "Bloss" (William Forsythe) the stereotype racist white person, who says the f-word every other sentence and is so despicable they didn't give him a first name in the movie. He's a lot of fun to be around. Then, there is "Raymond Hill" (Wesley Snipes), a fast-talking womanizer. Snipes must have liked those fast-talking "hip" arrogant roles because he played in a number of them, like in "White Men Can't Jump." Then there is sweet Helen Hunt playing "Anna" that wonderful caring, loving person who is having an adulterous affair with the leading character in the film, "Joel Garcia" (Eric Stoltz).

Yup, this is heartwarming, feel-good type stuff. It just makes my heart melt watching these nice folks. But, if you are one of those who loves sleazy characters portrayed by sleazy people in this sleazy might really like this! Add in a dose of Hollywood political correctness and there you go! What more could anyone want?
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Narcissism, Inexplicable Forgiveness Syndrome, And The Dancing Waters
norton83331 December 2008
THE WATERDANCE (1991) The main character of The Waterdance, played by Eric Stoltz, finds himself in a rehab center with some others similarly injured. And there he must face an harsh new life, confined to a wheelchair. It's an interesting, and promising premise, but unfortunately, it fails to deploy. What ensues instead is largely Hollywood schmaltz, with some interesting moments. Certainly the cast (Eric Stoltz, William Forsythe, Wesley Snipes, et al) is brilliant, and perform well here as one would expect, but their talents are wasted. The characters are mainly stereotypes of one kind or another, and most of them are thoroughly unlikeable (the Snipes character being the exception). I suppose this is some kind of attempt to break through people's ideas about the handicapped being "crippled" or "weak", by depicting them, for the most part, as in-your-face pricks, but it makes for an entirely annoying experience. Admittedly it will show you something of what those with permanent disabilities go through, in a way that is not softened or romanticized, which is useful, and a good idea, but while the process being depicted can make one a difficult person to get along with, and that's worth dealing with, it is not part and parcel to that that these characters must be, to varying degrees, despicable. They wouldn't have to be Disneyfied, either; surely there's a middle ground somewhere. By the film's conclusion, the Eric Stoltz character has come to accept his status as a handicapped person, but since he is such a flaming narcissistic monster from the beginning of the film to the end, we couldn't care less.

In addition to its character problems, the film suffers from that weird syndrome that so many Hollywood movies suffer from; the syndrome doesn't really have an official name, but you might call it "Inexplicable Forgiveness Syndrome". It goes something like this: characters abuse the crap out of each other, and then without so much as an apology, all is forgiven (an especially obnoxious example of this is in the movie The Breakfast Club, in which one character spends most of the film verbally bullying everybody within earshot; as a result…they love him. In one of the the latest examples, Spiderman 3, supervillain The Sandman lays waste to a chunk of Manhattan, then wails on Spiderman for what seems like about 15 monotonous minutes before being waved off with what amounts to "bye, now"). The most egregious example of IFS in The Waterdance is a sequence in which, after being called the n-word by William Forsythe's racist biker character and his friends in the previous scene, the Wesley Snipes character whoops it up with the same Forsythe character in the next scene, as if nothing had just happened just a short time hence. Again, without so much as an "Oh yeah, sorry about that business back there where I, you know, called you the n-word". It makes me wonder, do these people actually watch these movies before they release them, or do they just film them with their eyes closed, kind of slap them together in the editing room according to scene number, and call it a day's work?
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Great early 90s movie
rosa208229 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I recently got the chance to view "The Waterdance", and quite liked it. I don't really understand why its called that as there isn't really any dancing going on there, except maybe for the dancing at the strip club near the end. We are introduced to the main characters throughout the movie, invalids in a hospital. The story shows a love affair between a physically sisabled guy and a healthy woman, which is a very sweet story.Unfortunately, you don't get to see movies like that today. Im not "stuck in a time warp", im not saying that everything during the 80s and early 90s was better than today, but I really think the movie industry is deteriorating and there's much we can learn from old movies-by old movies i mean anything from 1920-1998.
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Enjoyable Low-Key Dramatic Character Study
Elswet8 April 2007
This work is a bold look into the mindset of men who find themselves in wheelchairs. This film never tries to tone it down, cotton candy-ize, or soft soap the angst, confusion, and pain of what these guys live with. That is its strength, I think.

But more so, the performances are fantastic, with well conceived and delivered dialog, which draws you in and makes you feel a part of the experience. The characters never attempt to block out the audience from knowing what's on their mind-what's in their hearts.

I found it plodding, but enjoyable.

It rates a 6.6/10 from...

the Fiend :.
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A funny, touching and simply wonderful gem of a drama
Woodyanders27 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Eric Stoltz delivers an extraordinary performance as Joel Garcia, a successful young novelist who winds up paralyzed and in a special hospital for the recently disabled after breaking his neck in a hiking accident. While learning to cope and adjust with the gravity of his new limited physical condition Joel befriends slick, fast-talking, charming womanizer Raymond (an amazing Wesley Snipes) and boorish, surly, racist biker Bloss (a terrific William Forsythe), who feels threatened by the diverse multi-ethnic array of fellow patients he's forced to share a room with. Joel also receives substantial support from his loyal and loving, but married girlfriend Anna (radiantly played by Helen Hunt). But he still must come to terms with being disabled on his own.

This remarkable movie's key triumph is its laudably stubborn refusal to neither sanitize nor sentimentalize the severity of what these men are going through. Directors Neil Jimenez (who also wrote the thoughtful and insightful script) and Micheal Steinberg relate the story with exceptional taste, wit and warmth, specifically addressing with disarming candor and matter-of-factness how being handicapped irrevocably alters one's lifestyle, including and especially your sex life (this point is most powerfully made in a striking sequence when Joel and Anna try and fail to make love in a motel room). Besides the expected poignancy, the film further provides a surprising surplus of wickedly funny raw, earthy humor that's highlighted by the uproarious sequence with Joel and Bloss making a secret nocturnal expedition to a strip club. The uniformly superb acting qualifies as another significant plus: Stoltz, Snipes, Forsythe and Hunt are all outstanding, with stand-out supporting turns by Grace Zabriskie as Bloss' doting, amiable mother and Elisabeth Pena and William Allen Young as compassionate hospital nurses. Despite the grim subject matter, the film ultimately proves to be a very moving, positive and uplifting cinematic testament to the astonishing strength and durability of the human spirit. A simply wonderful little gem of a drama.
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Handicapped Fun
gavin694219 September 2017
Author Joel Garcia (Eric Stoltz) breaks his neck while hiking, and finds himself in a rehabilitation center with Raymond, an exaggerating ladies' man, and Bloss, a racist biker. Considerable tension builds as each character tries to deal with his new found handicap and the problems that go with it, especially Joel, whose lover Anna is having as difficult a time as he is.

Although I certainly could have used far less of Helen Hunt, especially Helene Hunt naked, overall this is a fairly amusing film. You might think it would be sad or emotional given the topic, but for the most part it really is not. There are some tense moments between Joel and Anna, considering their future together, but the scenes like the wheelchair crew out joyriding more than make up for the serious moments.
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Stoltz great
SnoopyStyle13 November 2015
Author Joel Garcia (Eric Stoltz) is paralyzed after a hiking accident. Anna (Helen Hunt) struggles to choose between her husband and her affair with Joel. Les and Rosa (Elizabeth Peña) are his physical therapists. Other patients include brash womanizer Raymond Hill (Wesley Snipes) trying to reconnect with his family, Victor (Tony Genaro) with a large Latino family, and racist biker Bloss (William Forsythe) looking to sue with his mother (Grace Zabriskie)'s help. Each has trouble dealing with their lives.

Stoltz is restricted physically but performs masterfully. Raymond and Bloss are pretty broad characters. They needed to be toned down slightly. There are some compelling elements. I like Stoltz's take but not everything else is working. The motel room scene is devastating but Helen Hunt probably needs more screen time to show her life with her husband. The material has some greatness but I don't think it's all there.
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Despite a lot of faults - still a good watch
colinmetcalfe8 December 2010
This film was recommended to me back in the nineties and I thought yeah I'll catch it on TV, but I've not been aware of it ever being broadcasted. In the end I had to buy an old VHS video of Amazon.

Was it worth it? Well yes I guess it was. But it is one of those films that you can pick at many holes but still find yourself being entertained. Of course it has the lovely Helen Hunt in it and in that hotel room well... sorry if I say that I will detract from the overall quality of my review.

I liked the story and its intention to portray interesting and flawed characters. What I struggled with was the editing. A lot of characters must have had scenes cut as their transition from one type of person to another was too brief. I wasn't always sure what experiences/interactions had changed their behaviour. Also the music annoyed me and made me think of the film as being made in the 1980s and not the 1990s.

However, apart from that an interesting story well acted and shot.
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Dull Plot, Dull Acting, slightly entertaining
qiriri27 November 2000
The movie moves extremely slow, and even if its moving, the plot is pretty boring as it is. The performances of the actors were decent. If you're a fan of one of the actors, or are extremely interested in the lives of paralyzed people suffering from previous neck injuries, I recommend it. Otherwise, this movie could be a last resort on my list of to-rent movies.
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it's okay
johnkmak24 January 2002
This movie was a standard tear jerker. I don't really think it stands out between other movies of this genre. I really think William Forsythe is the most underrated actor in this film. Plus there are a few nude scenes by Helen Hunt that blows away her scenes in As Good As It Gets.
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