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THE WATERDANCE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Eric Stoltz, Wesley Snipes, William Forsythe, Helen Hunt, Elizabeth Pena
Directors: Neil Jimenez, Michael Steinberg
Audio: English Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Theatrical Trailers
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: December 18, 2001

Film ***1/2

The Waterdance is a unique character study that takes place in a world that has rarely been experienced in the movies, which is that of a physical rehab clinic, although the film echoes a bit of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The movie follows three characters, all of whom have been paralyzed and are thus in the rehabilitation process, and are finding it immensely difficult to adapt to this life-altering scenario. The result is a most touching drama featuring some touching performances from its lead actors.

The movie Eric Stoltz as Joel Garcia, and follows him in great detail from the moment when he wakes up after his accident. He is in a brace to prevent further injury to his spine, and eventually the brace comes off, physical therapy begins, and he becomes involved in the lives of his fellow residents in the rehabilitation ward, especially Raymond (Wesley Snipes), who considers himself a Romeo but has been abandoned by his woman, and Bloss (William Forsythe), a biker whose prejudices are easily aroused by Raymond, who is black, and Joel, who is Hispanic.

The process of rehabilitation is slow and frustrating. It begins with denial and depression, and leads into an acceptance that is necessary if anything else is to be done. Joel's physical learning process is joined by an emotional one, involving his relationship with Anna (Helen Hunt), the woman he loves. The script doesn't give us some soppy romance here, but a complex relationship: Anna is married to another man, has discussed leaving him for Joel, but now has to re-evaluate everything in terms of Joel's new reality. The film deals frankly with their new relationship, including its sexual aspects, and also painfully considers the adjustments the other men are going through.

The performances in The Waterdance are the key to its success. Both Eric Stoltz and, especially, Wesley Snipes are both pure revelations. Stoltz is rarely seen in films these days, and Snipes nowadays has resorted himself to mostly action fare, not to say that those are bad films, but to see an actor like him in a film like this really shows how much range he has as an actor.

The Waterdance is about the everyday process of continuing one's life under a tragically altered set of circumstances. It considers what life is, and under what conditions it is worth living. It is exhilarating and challenging to see a movie that knows exactly what it's talking about, and looks you straight in the eye. This is quite a gem.

Video ***1/2

A much acceptable presentation is at hand here from the folks at Columbia Tri Star. This anamorphic presentation is perfectly transferred for DVD viewing, as picture quality comes through in dynamic performance. Colors are vibrant, and image is sharp and clear as it can get, with the exception of a couple of scenes midway that turn up a little soft. Overall, The Waterdance is another winning CTS release.

Audio **1/2

Not really a fault of CTS, as this is another example of a movie that really dialogue driven and nothing else much. Therefore, this isn’t really a groundbreaking sounding disc. However, given that, the disc does sound better than average, even for a simple 2.0 channel.

Features *1/2

Just trailers for this film and the equally brilliant film, Birdy.

Summary:  

The Waterdance is a wonderful and original character piece that is purely worthy of two hours of dramatic entertainment. Highly recommended.