Released: 14th January
Seen: 18th January
The list of musicians that decided to try their hand at directing a film isn’t exactly large, especially in comparison to musicians who’ve acted in a film. People like Rob Zombie and Barbra Streisand proved that you could make big waves in music and be a respected director… then there are people like Madonna and Fred Durst who proved that sometimes you should probably stick to music. So, where does Sia fall in this- second. She’s in the second group, she should just stay in the world of music because if this film is an indication of what she’ll offer to cinema, I’d rather she stuck to music.
Speaking of that word, Music is the story of a young heavily autistic girl, who somehow got named Music, (Maddie Ziegler) who lives with her grandmother. When her grandmother dies, Music’s half-sister Zu (Kate Hudson) is called to take care of the young woman. Zu, of course, has problems of her own, those problems being she’s a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who also deals drugs to rich people while being cursed with the name Zu (Short for Kazu, can you tell a musician wrote this movie?). Still, Zu tries her best to look after Music with the help of the people of her street, including her neighbour Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.) and along the way learns… a lesson of some sort, I don’t care what because this film just bored me so much.
Let’s just get this part out of the way, Maddie Ziegler is not autistic and the casting of her in this role has created quite the controversy. I, as a non-autistic person, cannot state if she did a good job of it. What I can say is that her character is a non-entity, she’s a sentient lamp with no agency of her own. She doesn’t do a single thing in the story, things are done around her while she happens to exist in this world. This is evidenced by an early scene where Music goes for a walk all on her own and doors are opened for her before she even has to stop, people pay for her food so she can just pick it up without a care. She is denied agency and language and even the ability to react to most of the goings-on around her. She exists purely to give the other characters something to run around and to occasionally have a meltdown because that’s what people with autism do, right?
The story itself is basic (that’s the kind version), borderline movie of the week territory and comes with several major flaws. The biggest flaw is that this movie is also a musical, or at least it tries to be one. It breaks up the proceedings with musical numbers that have no reason to be there other than Sia wrote some songs and built a film around them. Here’s the problem, a basic rule of musicals is that you speak until the emotion gets too big and then you start to sing… that isn’t done here because the emotions are never high enough to warrant a musical number and the musical numbers have no relation to the plot and don’t advance it at all.
Songs just kind of happen, like a drive-by shooting with a melody. The music numbers don’t line up with emotional highs and if you pulled every single song out of its context (which they’re going to do when one of these songs charts and they need a music video) then the film itself wouldn’t change. They’re non-essential, they don’t tell the story in any meaningful way, they’re rainbow coloured distractions that are designed to make you think you’re watching something interesting. You’re not, you’re watching Music.
Then there’s Sia’s Hitchcockian cameo where she has herself be one of Zu’s customers but tries to make herself into the best kind of person to sell drugs to because she wants the illegal narcotics to transfer to poor countries with kids who don’t have legs who need pain killers… and also they make damn sure you know it’s Sia by having a character point to a Sia wig and say, excitedly “Is that a Sia wig?”. I understand that directors sometimes like to cameo in their films, especially when they’re already famous… but oh my god this is the most egotistical cameo I’ve ever seen.
Music is the result of a visual album getting into a violent car accident with a TV movie of the week, it’s saccharine and bland until it’s randomly interrupted by one of the filler tracks on Sia’s latest album. It offers nothing of value to the audience, no truly memorable or interesting songs or even any interesting performances. It only creates issues thanks to its casting and has a script that rarely works… plus, it has characters named MUSIC and ZU, which are some of the most pretentious names you could ever give to any character. If you’re a fan of Sia just buy the album, the context doesn’t improve any of the songs so save yourself the time.