Friday, June 8, 2012
The anonymity-cherishing subject of the documentary "Bill W." is William G. Wilson, the founder of AA and a hero and savior to millions of recovering addicts of all kinds around the world. Wilson lived an amazing life, almost always on the edge of poverty and for years dependent on the kindness of friends to house and feed him and his long-suffering wife, Lois. Unfortunately, his story is more compelling than this new but old-school doc, which with its amber-glow reenactments, old home movies, and black-and-white photographs suffers from the fustiness and drooping eyelids of a grade-school educational film. The best moments occur when Wilson's self-deprecating and gallows humor seeps out, as in his description of the AA chapter somewhere in Virginia that once served beer at its meetings. We get some fascinating insights into the nature of addiction and the ever-evolving meaning of AA's 12 steps and 12 traditions. If only "Bill W." were less of a broccoli movie, less good for you and more fun to take in.