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Bill W.

By MATTHEW SINGER

[FIVE DAYS ONLY] Bill Wilson isn’t America’s most famous drunk, though he is arguably the most important. In the 1930s, he co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous, helping develop the Twelve-Step Program and becoming an icon for recovery. True to his dedication to anonymity, he remains a largely unknown 20th-century figure four decades after his death—at least, to those who’ve never gone to battle with the bottle. Through shadowed testimonies from friends, acquaintances and those who’ve simply benefited from his efforts to promote alcoholism as a conquerable disease, directors Dan Carracino and Kevin Hanlon craft an effective portrait of a complicated guy. Bill W. doesn’t treat Wilson as a saint, despite the fact he reached that level of reverence within the world of AA—a deification he was never comfortable with. The documentary is successful almost in spite of itself: Carracino and Hanlon adhere too closely to linear biography, and the dramatic re-creations of key moments in Wilson’s life, narrated by archival recordings of his own voice, unfortunately resemble lost Drunk History episodes. But the film is carried by Wilson’s presence. The archival footage reveals a man whose charisma and oratory skills made him the ideal person for changing the perceptions of alcoholism. And, like most drunks, he was funny, too.  

 

Special Note

 Cinema 21.
 
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  • Release Date: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
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