- Last Updated: 1:42 AM, May 20, 2012
- Posted: 11:00 PM, May 17, 2012
Running time: 104 minutes. Not rated (frank discussion of alcoholism). At the Quad, 13th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues.
Alcoholics Anonymous founder William G. Wilson, known mostly as Bill W. before his death in 1971, was played by James Woods in a fine 1989 made-for-TV biopic. But the drama didn’t have room for some of the darker corners of Wilson’s life, fascinatingly explored in Kevin Hanlon and Dan Carracino’s documentary.
It’s fairly well-known that Wilson, whose alcoholism destroyed his Wall Street career, built on the work of others to develop a 12-step program for sobriety that has been utilized to help with dozens of other addictions.
“Bill W.” draws on a treasure trove of archival footage, audio recordings and interviews with people who knew him, and drives home his lifelong struggle with depression, as well as the sheer emotional burden of becoming a hero to millions.
Besides personally experimenting with LSD as a possible aid to sobriety in the 1950s, Wilson carried on a longtime affair with a woman in AA, practically under the nose of the wife who stood by him through nearly two decades of drunkenness — and helped him found the organization.