sat 27/02/2021

Music review - a few music videos cobbled together | reviews, news & interviews

Music review - a few music videos cobbled together

Music review - a few music videos cobbled together

Musician Sia’s film debut uses autism as a prop for shallow song and dance routines

Dance the nightmare away: Kate Hudson and Maddie Ziegler in Music

What did Sia want to achieve with Music, her deeply confused first stumble into filmmaking? The reclusive Australian has enjoyed years of global fame for a successful music career. Was it never enough?

What did Sia want to achieve with Music, her deeply confused first stumble into filmmaking? The reclusive Australian has enjoyed years of global fame for a successful music career. Was it never enough?

Music is about an autistic girl called Music (Maddie Ziegler) who lives a controlled life with her grandmother. When her grandmother (and only carer) dies suddenly, she comes under the care of her wild half-sister Zu (Kate Hudson). Zu is a free spirit who is recovering from a damaged past. A chance to find meaning seems to have arrived in this new role as protector-sibling, but she doesn’t exactly leap into it. Zu flirts with the idea of walking away and can’t shrug off the habits that have damaged her. The two meet up and some kind of buddy movie, or I don’t know what, tries to get going.

Music has attracted infamy for its depiction of autism, and Sia has already offered a public apology. How are we to interpret Sia’s perplexing directorial decisions? Firstly there is the choice to focus the narrative on Zu instead of Music. The film has been defended as “a love letter to caregivers” who are underrepresented. Yet this script centres on a recovering addict’s reluctance to adopt the carer role. A nuanced exploration of the neurodivergent community is sidestepped.

MusicThe film’s problems cascade from here. Zu is not compelling and interesting enough to deserve lead status. The ill-thought script leaves her background largely unexplained, meaning her efforts to transcend it never feel like a genuine journey. Aside from this, Zu is just plain unlikeable. She is irreverent, fussy and disloyal. So it can’t be believed when a kind Ghanaian immigrant Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.) takes a liking to her. When this sudden best friend tells her “You act like a child”, we’re meant to see it as a playful gesture. But it’s just a fact for the record.

Posing the carer as the victim seems to have been Sia’s intention. Ill-judged, or just idiotic? Maybe it was Sia’s way to get us to question and appreciate more deeply what caregiving involves. But again, Sia’s execution is bizarre. At almost every moment in the film where we feel able to get close to Music, to feel something of what she feels, the film escapes into one of its fantasy dance routines. These sequences are presented as deep dives into Music’s truth. But they come off as glib, superficial and desperate to win (or divert) our attention in the way a pop-up ad might. They avoid the film’s themes rather than explore them.

Is this a serious film or a fun-packed adventure? Gritty realism or enchanting fantasy? Lacking any direction, Sia slips bits of each and every style in at random and fails to achieve any of them. Given the fame, why does she feel the need to cover all bases and please everyone? In the process, she’s offended many and confused the rest.

The decision to pose the carer as the victim is either ill-judged or just idiotic

rating

Editor Rating: 
1
Average: 1 (1 vote)

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