This film is not a traditional biopic, but rather the director's recounting of the role Paul Williams has played throughout his life. How he remembers him from his youth, and how he figures into his current life. There are touches of Paul's early career and life, but the primary focus is on the friendship which grew between him and the director throughout the years of filming.
Stephen Kessler, a once hopeful, now floundering director, had been a fan of Williams' work growing up, but lost track of him somewhere around the early 80's. Much to his surprise, he found out that the entertainer was not dead, as he had long assumed, and was still making public appearances. He then went on a journey to discover where Paul had disappeared to for all those absent years.
The only flaw with this idea is that, for many of us, Paul never disappeared. Sure, his presence wasn't as strongly felt as it may have been a few decades ago, but even with his struggles with drug and alcohol abuse (now clean for 20 years), Paul was still making music and appearing in several films and TV shows. While I realize that Paul may have been flying under the radar for many, he was far from underground.
Kessler ignores these recent efforts, leaving blank Paul's creative history between 1980 and the late 2000s when he started filming this documentary. When asked during a Q&A following a screening of this film if he was still writing music, Paul lovingly jokes that he is and he thinks Kessler would have been happier to have found him living a trailer and eating out of trashcans, as it would have been better for his movie.
This film is not really one about Paul Williams, per se, it seems more about Kessler's search to find out something about his past, about his own slipping into obscurity, and the ways in which filming Paul transforms from an idea, to a crutch, to a renewed hope in his own career...and a friendship between the two.
While I feel like some discredit was done to Paul by lacking to mention the full spectrum of his work, I am glad to have a film that can renew interest in him and his many talents. The film is fully entertaining and Williams is delightful, albeit not quite the focus that the title might lead one to believe.
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