Gregory Hines was born on Valentine’s Day in 1946, which, according to wikipedia, was the same day the Bank of England was nationalized and several months before the Nuremberg Trials began. I’d always known Gregory Hines to be a celebrated tap dancer even though I haven’t seen too many of his films. I re-watched The Tic Code (Gary Winick, 1998) today, a film where he plays a saxophone player with Tourette Syndrome.
The first time I learned about Tourette Syndrome was for a sociological class in college. We had a research paper assignment to write about a condition listed in what was probably the DSM-IV. I don’t remember why or how I decided to write about Tourette’s, but it was probably because I didn’t know anything about it. My primary research source was Howard Kushner‘s book A Cursing Brain? The Histories of Tourette Syndrome. I remember reading that music and sex and alcohol help alleviate the triggers for the onset of vocal and motor tics, which were depicted respectively in the two films I wrote about: The Tic Code and Niagara, Niagara (Bob Gosse, 1997).
I don’t recall what my impression was of The Tic Code after the first time I watched it nearly twenty years ago. Since it was a homework assignment and not for a film class, I likely focused more on the story and content rather than structure. I have no recollection of whether or not I even liked the movie, which makes sense because my approach was academic and not one of entertainment. Through this ostensibly fresh lens, I found myself deeply invested in the film. The only dated aspect of this twenty-two year-old film is the presence of cordless phones and absence of smart phones.
The Tic Code centers on a young boy named Miles (Chris Marquette) who, within the first fifteen minutes of the film, the viewer learns is extremely talented on the piano and is developmentally atypical. Various dialogue exchanges address symptoms and the term “Tourette Syndrome” so there’s no mistaking it for anything along the autism spectrum. The Tic Code explores his friendships with his classmate Todd (Desmond Robertson) and Tyrone the saxophone player (Hines), who also has Tourette’s. It also delves into Miles’s struggles with his mostly off-screen, musically inclined dad and a school bully. In this respect, Gary Winick’s film (written by Polly Draper, who also plays Miles’s mother) is less about Tourette’s and more about a boy doing his best to live with it.
Learn more about Tourette Syndrome here.
Behold Gregory Hines dancing with Mikhail Baryshnikov.