Paul Williams in the documentary "Paul Williams: Still Alive." ( Stephen Kessler )
Sometimes being a fan helps.
That's certainly the case for the nostalgia-packed documentary "Paul Williams: Still Alive." Filmmaker Stephen Kessler's sheer delight in following around his boyhood idol, whose music framed much of the '70s when Kessler was a lad in Queens, is thoroughly infectious.
Laced through with Williams' music, the film covers a career that includes countless Grammys and an Oscar for the song "Evergreen" from "A Star Is Born," shared with Barbra Streisand. He wrote, or co-wrote, dozens of classics from "We've Only Just Begun" to the Muppets' "Rainbow Connection." That he had mostly slipped from public view triggered Kessler's quest.
Watching is like going through an old scrapbook with the singer. There's great footage of his highs, and his highs... drugs and alcohol derailed his career. Williams' agenda sometimes clashes with the filmmaker's but the friction only makes it better.
In his 60s now, with 20 years of sobriety, Williams does occasional gigs, heads the prestigious American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and leads a simpler life. The film reminds us how rich his creative legacy truly is, and the price of his peace today. When asked if he misses the big time, he bristles, "my life is so much bigger now." Indeed.
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