My Name Is Bill W. (1989) starring James Woods, JoBeth Williams, James Garner, Gary Sinise, George Coe, Fritz Weaver directed by Daniel Petrie Movie Review

My Name Is Bill W. (1989)   3/53/53/53/53/5

James Woods in My Name Is Bill W. (1989)

The Bill Wilson Story

A few months ago I got to watch "When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story" a made for TV movie about Lois Wilson, the wife of Bill Wilson. Now I find myself watching and reviewing "My Name Is Bill W." another made for TV movie but one which tells Bill Wilson's story. For those who are oblivious to who Bill Wilson is, he was one of the founders of the organization which would come to be known as Alcoholic Anonymous whilst his wife formed Al-Anon a support group for friends and family of alcoholics.

Now the surprising thing about "My Name Is Bill W." is that whilst having already watched a movie which detailed the up and down life of Bill Wilson it still drew me into the story. The reason is because this expectedly focuses more on Bill himself and we quickly get to grips with his character after returning from war in 1919 a hero and a man who lives life to the full. We see how when he sets his mind about something he tackles it with total gusto but it is a side of him which covers other aspects such as when he starts drinking he does so with complete and utter gusto till it has a grip on him.

JoBeth Williams in My Name Is Bill W. (1989)

As the storyline develops we are taken through Bill's life from flirtations with other women, being diagnosed with an enlarged liver through and beyond the Wall Street crash and his life come tumbling down as he is forced to take soul destroying menial jobs. All of which eventually not only leads to his marriage to Lois hanging by a thread but after Lois's attempts to get Bill help meeting Dr. Smith who together form what would become to be known as alcoholics anonymous.

The big reason why "My Name Is Bill W." works even when you have watched other movies which tackle the Wilson story is down mainly to the acting. James Woods does a fantastic job of playing Bill by establishing the nature of the man which leads to his drinking rather than just playing him as a drunk. It makes the character more real rather than just an out of control figure on the screen and JoBeth Williams does as equally as good a job as Lois who puts up with Bill's drinking. In fact all the cast which also includes James Garner and Gary Sinise deliver fine character portrayals which bring this story to life.

The only issue with "My Name Is Bill W." it lacks an element of balance as much of the movie focuses on Bill's trouble with drinking whilst there is not as much time when it comes to him beating his addiction and helping others.

What this all boils down to is that "My Name Is Bill W." is one of those TV movies which in fairness has better production values than most but really benefits from the high calibre cast who don't just act but get into their characters and in doing so bring the story and dialogue to life.