- Nate Adams
Review: Sia's disastrous 'Music' sings flat insensitive tune
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
Featuring a collection of wildly incoherent, bubbly musical numbers and an array of respected performers who seem trapped looking for the nearest exit, Australian pop star Sia Furler’s unimaginative and flat directorial debut “Music” is tone-deaf. A disaster of epic, mind-boggling, proportions that somehow convinced Kate Hudson, Ben Schwartz, and Leslie Odom Jr to participate, “Music” doesn’t have anything new to say about children with disabilities, and exploits those on the autism spectrum for cheap gimmicks and a soundtrack that’s even worse.
Maddie Ziegler plays the titular Music, a non-verbal woman on the autism spectrum, who follows a strict daily routine and suddenly winds up in the care of her drug-dealing half-sister Zu (Kate Hudson). In a perfect world, Zu would have Music admitted to the psych ward because of her condition which occasionally results in episodic spurts (Zu only shows up because she hopes compensation is involved, not because she cares about Music). Zu is about the worst human on the planet, made apparent when she asks a local mental clinic if they do: “Pick up?” as if her sister is dirty laundry. Even when Sia can’t help but indulge in the self-reflecting: “I can do better” melodramatic troupe, Zu is still the worst protagonist of the 21st century. You’ll never root for her success. And why should you? In any instance that revolves around the health and safety of Music, Zu twists the situation to make it about her. Spending two hours with someone has never been more irksome.
As if Zu and Hudson weren’t the only issue, Ziegler lacks confidence to tackle this role. Aside from her notable absences of convictions or character arch (Sia’s writing and directing folks!) Ziegler is not on the spectrum and it’s caused controversy in the disabled community. In an era where films “Coda” or “A Quiet Place” make efforts to remain authentic to their written characters, “Music” spits in their face (Sia made it worse by responding to her critics on social media, opening a huge can of worms). It’s easy to “walk the walk” but if you don’t have the movie to back it up, probably best to stay on the sideline.
It’s painful to watch Ziegler who’s distracting performance is mis-directed nor has the characters or narrative infrastructure needed to support her journey. Which, all things considered, isn’t much of a “journey,” more so connective tissue to get audiences from one abruptly, loosely connected musical interlude to the next and in-between Kate Hudson cries about her problems. Oh, and Leslie Odom Jr plays the stereotypical, thick accented neighbor/love interest who runs, of all things, a boxing ring and may or may not have cancer.
Sia tries to pull from a variety of different angles, including the “Rain Man” dynamic, where one becomes changed by having spent time with a disabled sibling. But “Music” lacks the nuance of Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman’s chemistry, and like that film uses autistic characters for narrative progression instead of seeing them as humans who can think for themselves. To help conceal this, Sia uses Music’s day-to-day activities as the backdrop for a series of trippy musical sequences, complete with psychedelic colors and elaborate stages and costumes. The choreography and camera work are far from memorable, though if someone watched this on drugs, they might appreciate the pool of pink foam cubes, fluffy walls, and dancers in elastic bouncy ball outfits. I wasn’t on drugs and therefore was miserable.
If that sensory overload isn’t enough, the songs won’t offer much insight considering they’re disconnected from the entire plot. It’s basically Sia throwing whatever rainbow-colored muck she can find at the screen, except there’s no music here. Only hollow noise looking for relevance.
MUSIC will be in select IMAX theaters on February 10th, and available in select theaters and everywhere on demand February 12th.