Sunday, December 2, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (30) Eric Stoltz in THE WATERDANCE (1992)

"Do all shrinks wear sweaters?  I remember Judd Hirsch had a nice sweater in Ordinary People...You know I am a writer, that's what I do and I don't need to walk to do that, so this is 'denial', right doc?"

What a fascinating career Eric Cameron Stoltz has had.  The prolific, and always exceptional, Stoltz got his start in the late seventies with appearances in a number of television shows (and films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High where he memorably appeared as one of Spicoli's stoner buddies) but his career didn't really kick into gear until his moving appearance in Peter Bogdanovich's Mask.  Eric brought such a great, and distinctive, quality to each of his performances and he seemed to have no trouble going from light comedies to heavy dramas. 
By the early nineties Eric Stoltz became one of the most recognizable faces of the new American Independent movement and the decade would see him giving one great performance after another.  Despite his consistently great work Stoltz has never really gotten the proper respect he deserves and it's insane that he has still never received an Oscar nomination or been granted a major acting award.  I think it was Stoltz's incredible reliability that ultimately became his biggest enemy as great work was finally just expected from him. 
Of the many fine performances Eric Stoltz has given us in the past five decades, none equal his incredible turn as paralyzed Joel Garcia in Neal Jimenez and Michael Steinberg's amazing The Waterdance (1992).  Acting opposite a luminous Helen Hunt, Stoltz gives an incredibly controlled and vivid performance that ranks among the great works of the nineties.  What is most amazing about Stoltz's work in The Waterdance is just how damn intelligent it is, and how different.  Where most actors would have gone for histrionics and show, Stoltz goes subtlety and depth.  Stoltz's Joel Garcia is a funny and heartbreaking creation that feels eerily authentic and perfectly realized.
The Waterdance has never been granted the audience it has so long deserved and it remains one of the great under the radar films of the nineties and Eric Stoltz's work in it is really, really fine.  To recognize just how complex and gifted an actor Stoltz is may I recommend a double feature of The Waterdance and Roger Avery's ferocious Killing Zoe (1993).  You'll swear you are watching a totally different actor even though these films were made virtually back to back.

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-


J.D. said...

Good call on this performance. I remember seeing this when it first came out on home video and was very impresses with Stoltz's work in this one. I felt that most of the main cast was cast wonderfully against type with Wesley Snipes, Helen Hunt and William Forsythe being allowed to really develop their character beyond the surface details.

Stoltz is an interesting who always seems to pop up in memorable roles in mainstream films and indie films alike. He's not afraid to go back and forth, playing both likeable and unlikeable characters.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks so much J.D. and I totally agree with all your thoughts. I realy hope you enjoy the rest of the list!