Howard is a biography of Howard Ashman, telling the story of his life from his childhood telling stories to his baby sister to his acting days to finding huge success writing lyrics for Disney animations to his death from AIDS at the age of 40. Having seen a number of biographical documentaries I was expecting another pretty boring piece presenting a collection of facts concerning one man's life (especially considering the fact that lately I don't have the best opinion about Disney). What I got was a pretty extraordinary portrait of an incredible artist. The thing that first comes to mind when I think about my feelings after watching the movie is how tender it was in talking about Ashman. We see him as a talented actor, a gifted storyteller, a genius lirycist, and later as a man hiding his disease and trying to reconcile the fact that he is dying, but even when his most diva-like moments are discussed, it is always in a caring tone. It is really moving seeing how many people where touched by Ashman's life and work. Secondly, the movie is a great treat for any fan of musical theatre. A lot of insight into Ashman's creative process is given, both when looking at his early career writing for theatre, and at his later work on Disney movies. A number of people who worked with him talk about their experiences, discussing different issues connected with creation process of both theatre and movies. We also see how Disney animation classics The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin came to be, which should interest any fan of both musicals and cinema in general. Thirdly, it is impossible to talk about Howard without talking about the AIDS crisis. It's like a dark, ominous presence haunting the viewer throughout the whole movie, as during the first three minutes we are made aware of how the story ends. In this respect Howard can be seen as a document of the dark times when AIDS was claiming thousands of lives every month and bigotry and homophobia were so rampant that Ashman felt it necessary to hide the fact that he was sick untill the last possible moment. To sum up, the movie is beautifully tender and deeply touching. It is in a big part about Ashman's tragic premature death and the feeling of emptiness and loss it created for many people, but most of all it is a celebration of his life and work. I would recommend watching it to anyone who likes good and moving movies.
The story of songwriter Howard Ashman who penned the lyrics for Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast before he died of AIDS at the height of the AIDS crisis in 1991.
August 12, 2020