Synopsis: Zu is newly sober when she receives news that she is to become the sole guardian of her half-sister named Music, a young girl on the autism spectrum. Zu begins her process of recovery as she bonds with Music’s vibrant personality.
Some movies can never escape the notorious narratives surrounding their release. While some may push for critics to view a film outside those connotations, I can not ignore the blatant ignorance behind Sia’s writing and directorial debut Music. The talented musician makes numerous poor decisions in her distasteful representations of the Autism community.
Whiplashing audiences to the days of inauthentic awards-bait efforts like I Am Sam (a period that was hilariously mocked in Tropic Thunder), Sia’s melodramatic misfire lacks any understanding of its subject matter. Her writing collaboration with Dallas Clayton rests solely on mawkishly weepy contrivances to sell its inclusive messages. Any semblance of reality the two try to establish is lost amidst a wave of overworked quirks and bombastic diatribes. With every dramatic element dialed up to obvious degrees (the “character likes music so name her Music” type logic), there’s nothing really for audiences to attach to.
Then there’s Sia’s inclusion of vivid music numbers to relay Music’s deeply-felt emotions. These colorful frames have some alluring pop to them, but they rarely serve their intended purpose for the story. The formulaic lyrics and sunny visuals don’t exhibit much thought outside of adding a noisy stylistic inclusion to the table. Sia’s over-exposed lighting and busy edits vie for an upbeat tempo that lands closer to saccharine overkill. It’s frustrating to watch a film desperate to elicit emotions yet completely disconnected from its desired reactions.
Between the snubbing of Autistic actors and Sia’s social media tirade against her numerous detectors, it’s clear Sia did not possess the proper understanding to tell her well-meaning story. I don’t want to speak with superiority or act like the singer approached her material with malicious intent. However, the lack of authenticity is apparent at every turn. Maddie Ziegler’s overacted performance feels completely disconnected from reality, while Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. are stuck in thanklessly stereotypical roles.
I feel like we’ve grown past these types of vapid white-knighting efforts, but Music sadly transports us back to that dated era with troubling results. The Autism community deserves much better representation than this, and I hope future filmmakers learn from Sia’s mistakes.