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Paul Williams Still Alive

PG-13 Released Jun 1, 2012 1h 24m Documentary Biography Comedy Musical List
97% Tomatometer 33 Reviews 77% Audience Score 500+ Ratings Filmmaker and longtime fan Stephen Kessler's portrait of the award-winning 1970s singer-songwriter-actor, who disappeared for much of the 1980s and '90s, but still performs today. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Buy Now

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Critics Reviews

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Richard Brody New Yorker The insightful, rueful, intensely self-critical and self-aware Williams delivers a harsh look at his own accomplishments, as well as at Kessler's process. Jan 21, 2013 Full Review Linda Holmes NPR What makes Paul Williams Still Alive successful is the relationship between Kessler and Williams. Oct 23, 2012 Full Review Bill Goodykoontz Arizona Republic For all of Kessler's annoying traits, he did get results. Perhaps a different approach wouldn't have yielded a film as satisfying as "Paul Williams Still Alive." Rated: 4/5 Jul 26, 2012 Full Review Kathy Fennessy Seattle Film Blog Director Stephen Kessler, who appears to be around my age, decided to find out what happened to his childhood hero--as the title indicates, he thought Williams had died. That inquiry led to the documentary Paul Williams Still Alive. Rated: 3.5/4 Jun 9, 2024 Full Review Jordan M. Smith In spite of its ramshackle, touch and go structure, Paul Williams Still Alive manages to paint a vivid picture of Mr. Williams by deconstructing his past and understanding his present with equal sensitivity. Feb 9, 2020 Full Review Stephen Saito Moveable Fest It's the type of showmanship that earned the devotion of fans like Kessler in the first place and it's only natural that the director has made a film that will pass it along to new audiences. Jan 8, 2019 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Robert C In the UK, Paul Williams wasn't such a major star so this documentary does not provoke the same memories of the 70's and 80's that it will in the USA. It's also starts to feel like it is more about the film maker than the subject. As a result, I've noticed this has got mixed reviews from the public, But, I dunno, over 10 years after this was made, we are now buried under a pile of 'reality' shows, so this strikes me as being much more honest. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 11/02/23 Full Review Audience Member The movie isn't great, and it wasn't Paul Williams' fault. The film maker was way too involved in the movie himself and should have focused more on his subject. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/24/23 Full Review Audience Member Bad film waste of money trash and garbage Rated 0.5 out of 5 stars 02/11/23 Full Review Audience Member This is a well constructed, entertaining, view of the life of a 70's icon. Through this movie you will get a good picture of who Paul Williams was and who he is now. Although it shows a typical celebrity arc-- rags to riches to drugs to life after--it does so in a way that many of the reviewers of this film find offensive: the movie maker is part of the movie—sort of a documentary and a "making of" the documentary, combined. Early in the film, when Steve first comes up with the idea of making a movie about Paul, he says, "I could make a PBS documentary...", and the following segment looks just like that. I think that if Steve made the whole movie in that style, most of the critics of it would be happy. But if you look at the footage beginning at 21:20, you can see that Paul is the one who suggests that Steve be PART of the filming—the "Paulie and Steve show" (Paul's words). Paul states that it would be "really authentic" if he were filmed with Steve, instead of trying to ignore that there's a camera following him. So the rest of the film is shot that way, and it allows Steve to add the material at the beginning about his motivation for making the movie, etc. And--in my opinion--it's the connection that Steve and Paul make by filming this way that allows Paul to feel comfortable enough and "natural" enough to relate many of the genuine feelings that make this such a great story. So Steve Kessler made the kind of movie Paul wanted him to make, and the film turned out so much better because of it. It says a lot about the type of man that Paul Williams is today: the former game show and talk show gadfly of the 70's that spent countless hours trying to make himself the center of attention, would rather be a co-star in a film about him, because he thinks it would be "more authentic"! I believe he was right. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/13/23 Full Review Audience Member Review of Paul Williams Biopic Though perceived as a musical lightweight, whose glib persona on the talk show circuit was perceived as a disappointing "Yes" to Peggy Lee's "Is That All There is?", Williams comes across in this highly watchable character study as a man possessed of considerable gravitas and perhaps too much self awareness. In particular, he loathes his talk show performances, which he believes portray a shallow and self-indulgent opportunist. Honor is due to the relentless pursuit of his subject by writer-director Steven Kessler, who wins Williams's cooperation by refusing to be rebuffed. Once he wins Williams's trust, the film portrays a slice of Williams's life, which is mostly mundane but is nevertheless compelling, in large part due to Williams's considerable charisma. He wears the mantle of the has-been with dignity, and goes about the business of touring and playing B-joints with the dedication of a professional. The film's high point is an unlikely venue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he wows a sold-out audience of devoted fans and is moved to tears by their abiding love for his still-beautiful songs, and his softly rendered delivery of them. Also notable is his long-suffering musical director and his endlessly supportive wife. Yet while it becomes obvious that Williams is indeed a survivor, there is an underlying melancholy. He perceives himself as an artist who wasted his best years in the pursuit of TV fame and the willingness to descend to self-parody to achieve it. In other words, he feels he sold himself out. Ironically, this film makes a strong case for Williams's integrity. And ultimately, we come away with the satisfaction of spending some quality time with a man who is far more complex and interesting than we expected going in. While fame may not return in his later career, his legacy will be his songwriting - some of his hits have become standards - and his quiet determination to make a good life for his family. He could have been so much less. Highly recommended. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/03/23 Full Review Audience Member Paul Williams is an interesting character, but Still Alive is a documentary explaining why it isn't a very good documentary. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 02/20/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Paul Williams Still Alive

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Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis Filmmaker and longtime fan Stephen Kessler's portrait of the award-winning 1970s singer-songwriter-actor, who disappeared for much of the 1980s and '90s, but still performs today.
Stephen Kessler
Jim Czarnecki, Stephen Kessler, Mike Wilkins, David Zieff
Stephen Kessler
Production Co
PG-13 (Brief Strong Language|Drug References)
Documentary, Biography, Comedy, Musical
Original Language
Release Date (Theaters)
Jun 1, 2012, Limited
Release Date (Streaming)
Mar 22, 2016
Box Office (Gross USA)
1h 24m
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