When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story


Biography / Drama

IMDb Rating 6.8 10 894

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Uploaded By: FREEMAN


Winona Ryder as Lois Wilson
Barry Pepper as Bill Wilson
Ellen Dubin as Dora
Paul Popowich as Rogers Burnham

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by monalisasilvaggio 2 / 10

The truth would have made a better movie.

As a recovered alcoholic and student of AA history, I found myself shaking my head with both disappointment and amusement as I watched this movie. In addition to the overly melodramatic tone, the story left out several critical facts, among them: (1) Bill W. was an absolutely notorious womanizer, not only while drinking but also after he got sober, even going so far as to leave 10% of his Big Book royalties to his favorite mistress, Helen W.; (2) the writing of the Big Book was a collaboration, and several chapters were not written by Bill W., although he alone got royalties; (3) the chapter in the BB entitled "To Wives", which was presented as having been written by Lois, was actually written by Bill, who apparently did not believe that she could do it justice--this infuriated Lois (and one can only imagine her thoughts about Bill's bequest to his mistress).

To my mind, leaving those things out turned this story into nothing more than Hallmark's usual pabulum. I would vastly have preferred the truth, which is that Lois never stopped putting up with an incredible degree of selfishness and arrogance from Bill, because he cheated on her for their entire marriage. Not only that, but his predatory behavior was a big problem in early AA, so much so that a "Founders Watch" committee was formed in an attempt to keep him from hitting on the attractive, vulnerable women coming to the program for help. The sickening sweetness with which Bill and Lois's relationship was portrayed did nothing to edify: it was like a typical, predicable, and ultimately untruthful AA lead in which the alcoholic finds AA, receives the "miracle of sobriety" and lives happy ever after.

The one thing I did like about the movie was that it presented Al-Anon for the most part as what Al-Anon actually is: a 12 step program where members work exactly the same steps as AA. Many people, including mental health professionals, mistakenly believe that Al-Anon exists to help family members understand what the alcoholic is going through, or to help him or her quit drinking, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Reviewed by michaelgm 5 / 10

Movie needed an intervention

After I watched this eagerly awaited, but ultimately disappointing film, one of my first thoughts was that this film needed its own version of Al-Anon. Lois Wilson, like many spouses of users, spent all of her energies dealing with the fall-out of living with an alcoholic; did the movie have to do the same thing? When one has less than two hours to tell a complex story about a fascinating woman, did we really need an hour and twenty or thirty minutes of the constant cycle of dankness, shame, recriminations, and broken promises? Don't get me wrong, I'm sure this harrowing cycle repeats itself in every user's home--it's just that when there was so little time to tell such a complicated story, I would have preferred less binges and more character development. I didn't get a good sense of what drew these two together in the first place. There were so few scenes other than those of "saintly wife props up troubled husband," that I just didn't get a sense of them as a married couple. I didn't feel Pepper and Ryder had that much chemistry together. Since much was made of the fact that the real Lois Wilson was 3 or 4 years older than Bill, it didn't help the situation to cast an actress with such a youthful persons with an actor who always looked appreciably older than her--and, yes, I know drink ages you, but he looked a lot older than her at the wedding. Hallmark seems to have lost its mojo.

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Reviewed by BERSERKERpoetry 6 / 10

"I'm talking about me now."

"When Love Is Not Enough" is a film of a very specific style. That sort of style most commonly seen in films which consider the most effective way to depict a period drama is in mimicking the film-making style of said period. If you can swallow all the tear-jerking music and glossy cinematography, you will certainly appreciate the story better. But I found myself aching for a little bit more grittiness. Even much older alcoholic dramas such as "The Lost Weekend" or "Days of Wine and Roses" had a degree of emotional intensity not quite present here. Then again, this is a TV movie, and similar expectations are not necessarily in play.

Winona Ryder and Barry Pepper are two of my favorite actors. They don't disappoint here. Pepper (as Bill Wilson) is appropriately pathetic for the better half of the film, believably drunk and unhinged. Ryder (as Bill's wife, Lois) is given somewhat less to work with. Some of her dialogue during the more intense arguments is so wordy and roundabout that she seems tied between losing her breath and keeping a straight face. Both of which tend to get in the way of projecting emotion.

It's a good enough film. The story takes you through the events of Bill and Lois' married life, always without making you feel like it's arbitrary or scripted out. The unfortunate side is how John Kent Harrison doesn't offer anything at all outstanding with his direction. The look is flat, clean, ordinary. He sometimes uses off-kilter angles in the composition, which is always distracting and immediately makes one think of 1960s television shows. Harrison prevents the actors from pushing further than expected, and gives nothing but limitations to the production.

In the end, this is probably worth watching. The actors give enough guts and passion to make it worth your time. It's nothing to subvert even the lowest of expectations, but you get the sense that everyone tried their best. And that's commendable, even when their best is not enough.

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