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Generally favorable reviews - based on 12 Critics What's this?

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  • Starring:
  • Summary: He won Grammys and an Academy Award; wrote many #1 songs from Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen" to the Carpenter's "We've Only Just Begun" as well as Kermit the Frog's biggest hit, "The Rainbow Connection"; starred in a Brian DePalma movie; put out his own hit records and albums; was a guest on The Tonight Show fifty times; and is the president of ASCAP... and you might not have heard of him. In the 1970's, Paul Williams was the singer / actor / songwriter that emotional, alienated teenage boys all over the world wanted to be, a sex symbol before MTV, when sex symbols could be 5"2 and sing songs about loneliness with the Muppets. One of those boys was Steve Kessler, a chubby kid from Queens. Thirty years later, Kessler discovered something amazing: Paul Williams didn't die. And no one had ever tried to make a documentary about him. A wistful musical journey that will re-introduce a new generation to Williams' soulful classics, "Paul Williams: Still Alive" is the self-narrated story of Stephen Kessler's lifelong obsession with the former superstar-and what happens when the nostalgic filmmaker finally catches up with him. (Abramorama Films) Expand
  • Director: Stephen Kessler
  • Genre(s): Biography, Comedy, Musical, Documentary
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Runtime: 87 min
  • More Details and Credits »
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 12
  2. Negative: 0 out of 12
  1. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Jun 7, 2012
    88
    Williams, who was elected president of ASCAP in 2009, speaks frankly and eloquently about his problems dealing with fame, and his recovery. And more important, he earns our thanks by resolutely refusing to let Kessler turn this into a clich├ęd documentary.
  2. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Jun 21, 2012
    83
    The movie is fascinating, though it smacks its own lips a bit too much at the tackiness of freak '70s stardom.
  3. Reviewed by: Joe Leydon
    Jun 5, 2012
    80
    An engrossing and satisfying picture, one that can be enjoyed even by people who have never before heard of its subject.
  4. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Jul 28, 2012
    80
    What makes the movie so good is Williams' absolute refusal to play along.
  5. Reviewed by: Chris Packham
    Jun 5, 2012
    70
    Johnny Carson loved him, and Williams had the credits to back himself up: As with Jimmy Webb, you could probably sing many of his songs without knowing that he's the author.
  6. Reviewed by: Inkoo Kang
    Jun 13, 2012
    70
    Too bad the film's obscure star will be a hard sell to non-music geeks or anyone born after 1965, because this film's a blast.
  7. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Jun 7, 2012
    40
    Kessler has indeed made a film about a fame-chasing narcissist in desperate need of attention. But that has nothing to do with the guy we came to see.

See all 12 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Apr 23, 2013
    9
    I was recently reminded that a person dies three deaths: 1) their corporeal death, 2) when everyone who ever knew you has also died and 3) when your name is spoken for the last time, ever. I'm in favor of forestalling the latter as long as possible by making sure we learn from as much as we can about those who directly and indirectly had a significant influence on our culture. Those who made their mark in the arts are especially vulnerable to being forgotten early due to our capricious tastes.

    (You know, I'm surprised to see no one had reviewed this yet. Hmmm....)

    The documentary succeeds because of the subject, Paul Williams. If you like music, I highly recommend you see this. This way, when one of your contemporary music idols mentions how one of Paul Williams songs influenced them or, indirectly, through one of their own influences, you'll know what of they speak.

    Surprisingly entertaining. (Well, not that surprising seeing as I'd checked out Metacritic before renting it!)

    Regardless, Paul Williams is one who, despite a great body of work, I'd expected to be relatively uninteresting in this day and age. Fortunately, I went with the reviews and am pleased I did.

    Enjoy!
    Expand
  2. Lyn
    Jun 1, 2013
    7
    Sometimes a documentary's narrator takes a vital or heart-rending role that helps explore the subject. ("My Architect," for example.) But this is not one of those times. Stephen Kessler continually inserts himself in ways that actually detract from his subject. Wish he would have spend less time navel-gazing and more time framing questions Paul Williams's fans would love to see answered! However, I was deeply affected by PW's work as Kessler sincerely was and am glad he made the film. He did provide an update on Williams and capture him as the lovable, sensitive, down-to-earth guy we always felt he was. Collapse