The Reel Review
Just as she celebrates newfound sobriety, drug dealer Zu (Kate Hudson) learns her grandmother has died and that she is now the guardian of her autistic half-sister named Music. Pop superstar Sia, in her directorial debut, uses fantasy song and dance to delve into the mind of this non-verbal teen on the autistic spectrum while exploring the definition of family.
Critics have slammed Sia for casting her music video muse Maddie Ziegler, who’s not on the autistic spectrum, in the title role of her musical drama. But given its acting and highly-choreographed dancing demands, that criticism seems terribly unfair. Ziegler does a fine job portraying this more extreme end of the spectrum. Scenes showing physical restraint to prevent her character from injuring herself have also sparked a heated debate within the autism community.
But as for the movie itself, it is a bit messy. The stereotypical story is overloaded with so many social issues that few get more than scant attention. And then there is that one bizarre, cringeworthy, self indulgent scene in which Sia appears as a pop superstar buying prescription pills from Zu, presumably to send to children in Haiti. It is odd.
But Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr., as the neighbor and Zu’s love interest, both give excellent, impassioned performances. Music primarily is a Sia vanity project to showcase her candy-colored surrealist performance art alongside a well-intended effort to give visibility to autism, even if the clumsy execution makes it appear exploitive to some. Music is not a great film, but nor is it as monstrous as some have painted it. The song and dance sequences are actually creative and entertaining, and the film has a really sweet, heartfelt ending.
• Music was nominated for two 2021 Golden Globes, for Best Film – Musical/Comedy and Best Actress – Musical/Comedy (Hudson).
• Maddie Ziegler has been in several of Sia’s music videos – the most famous, 2014’s Chandelier, which has gotten 2.3 billion views. Ziegler will appear as one of the Jets in the remake of West Side Story later in 2021.
• In February 2021, Sia apologized for the controversial restraint techniques in the film, then deleted her Twitter account in response to controversy of this film, which she had been working on since 2015.