Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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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.
Bad film waste of money trash and garbage
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.
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.
Paul Williams is an interesting character, but Still Alive is a documentary explaining why it isn't a very good documentary.
It's an extremely interesting history lesson on the man but also extremely original while it ties in a storyline about the relationship of Stephen Kessler and him in the process of making the film. It becomes memorable because of the way Kessler feels about being seen by Paul, rather than just being a biography on him. It's also very moving to see how success doesn't matter to him at this stage in life.
Paul Williams is one of those figures from the 70s and 80s who was everywhere, but kind of dropped off the map. Director Stephen Kessler was a fan of Williams and wanted to find out what happened. What happened was that Williams got caught up in a lot of drugs and booze of the time, and also got caught up with celebrity, hitting the talkshow circuit and doing many many TV appearances, instead of focusing on his music and songwriting career. Williams doesn't seem to quite let his walls down very much in the film, but I think the one revelation is that Williams lives in the present and does not look back into the past. It's not terribly insightful, but it's an interesting film to watch for anyone semi familiar with Williams.
Never explains why Williams sings like he has a mouth full of marbles.
A hostile documentary fails in a most spectacular way. Despite the film's obvious initial motivation to force a trite tale of a fall from grace, it ends up showing the truth, that Williams is happier now than he has ever been. Paul Williams succeeded in transcending superficiality and achieving something he could never in Hollywood: gaining acceptance and friendship as his authentic self.
A sentimental portrait of a man who wanted nothing more than to entertain others (and eat squid). This film made me a fan of Paul. In more ways than expected.