Music is a 2021 American musical drama film directed by singer-songwriter Sia. The film was co-written by Sia and Dallas Clayton and stars Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr, and Maddie Ziegler. Originally conceived in 2015 as a non-musical film, the film was subsequently re-conceived as a musical with a larger budget. The film was released on January 14, 2021 in Australia and February 12, 2021 in the United States. The film was panned by critics and bombed at the box office.
The film follows Zu Gamble (Kate Hudson), a former drug dealer who becomes the Guardian of her autistic younger sister Music (Maddie Ziegler). Zu soon meets Ebo Odom (Leslie Odom Jr), a boxer who teaches her how to care for Music. Throughout the film, musical dance sequences take place inside Music's mind, showing how she views the world.
Why It Sucks
- The film's depiction of autism is exaggerated to the point of being stereotypical, with Music's tantrums, love of routine, and fixation on certain things not being representative of the entire autistic population.
- The casting of Maddie Ziegler in the role was controversial, as Ziegler is neurotypical and she was presumably cast in the role because she is a frequent collaborator of Sia. In fact, Ziegler was worried about making fun of autistic people during filming, to the point where she once broke down crying on set.
- Before the movie's release, many people had actually defended Ziegler's casting, pointing out that there was nothing wrong with a neurotypical person playing an autistic character so long as that character sensitively and respectfully depicted real-life autistic people. When the movie was released it turned out that Music's depiction was about as far away from sensitive and respectful as possible, which has only caused the debate to become even more heated.
- The movie even depicts characters in blackface, another example of racism against people of color in this movie, with one example being Maddie Ziegler in the "Oh Body" dance number. Also, the hand movements in Oh Body are interpreted as motor tics of the fingers added to mock neurodivergents.
- The musical numbers that take place inside Music's mind, while impressive, are constantly out of nowhere and happen at inconvenient times.
- False Advertising: Despite the film's title, Music is mostly portrayed as a supporting character, as the film focuses more on Zu and Ebo.
- Acting that ranges from bland to annoying (except for Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr.).
- Maddie Ziegler gives an exceptionally poor performance as Music, especially with her overuse of the open-mouth.
- The story is disjointed and incredibly confusing, with clichés scattered throughout.
- Extremely poor characterizations:
- Ebo is depicted as a stereotypical and generic "magical Negro", a person of color who helps the main character through the course of the plot, who helps Zu control her autistic sister. Also, he mentions that he has AIDS, which goes off nowhere to only serve as a racist stereotype.
- Music is just a generic bratty teenager whose characterization amounts to an amalgamation of various autistic stereotypes without a personality of any kind. She also never feels grief or sadness, is self-sufficient enough to brush her teeth and dress without explanation, always sees the world as a bed of roses and every other character respects her at first sight, making her a Mary Sue. Not to mention is that she is objectified throughout the movie. In addition, her characterization drew comparisons to a school bully making fun of an autistic person. Ultimately, she is only there in the movie as a plot device and obstacle Zu and Ebo have to overcome.
- Felix only serves as a token Asian character who does almost nothing to the plot other than being a background character and introducing Ebo's role as a boxing coach that unwittingly gets killed when trying to stop his father in an altercation and gets sent to Heaven in a rickshaw in one of the musical sequences.
- Sia's cameo in the film is completely random and just a way to self-promote.
- The movies encourages the ableist concept of performing restraints on stressed or overwhelmed individuals with ASD.
- In addition, the methods used to deal with autistic meltdowns within two scenes are inaccurate and dangerous. In the first restraint scene where Ebo teaches Zu how to restrain Music, he performs a supine restraint; picking up and pinning her down until she stops struggling whilst daring mention that he's "crushing her with his love" and in the other one, Zu performs a face-down prone restraint on Music, after remembering Ebo's teachings. In real life, such methods could potentially kill the person from asphyxia. Not helping matters is that the movie was released after the George Floyd incident that caused racial protests throughout the United States, where he was placed in a chokehold until his death, calling for disuse of such methods that can asphyxiate the victim. Even if they didn't delay the film's release, it was still released after that incident and the movie would have received worse reception if it were to be released on its original release date at around October 2020, as protests were still going on during that time.
- Little to no story, as half of this movie, is basically music sequences that don't advance the plot. Unlike other musical films like Hamilton, which advance the plot with their rich storytelling songs, this film doesn't do that and if you take out the music sequences of the movie, it doesn't affect any of its stories, Not only that but it's also a ripoff of the 1988 film Rain Man (a good film that managed to done everything better about autism than this film)
- It originally was not even supposed to be a musical, but it was made a musical midway into development.
- Sia was actually never good at directing experience. Before she directed this film, she claimed that she was "pretty good" at directing and "felt a little bit braver".
- The cinematography is completely terrible, relying heavily on high contrast and exposure.
- With how horribly this movie was received by critics and audiences, it pretty much sealed Sia’s fate as a bad director.
- Sia even had the audacity to defend this movie and couldn't take any criticism from anyone on social media. What makes this worse is that she even accused a person with autism of being a "bad actor" on Twitter. Even after the movie's release, Sia was still snarky and condescending towards the disabled and neurodivergent community as a result of the bitter aftertaste left by the movie.
- Not helping is that Sia forced Maddie Ziegler to play this role against her own will, meaning that Sia mentally and emotionally abused her and her wishes, which is considered grooming!
- Sia also apologized for the scenes with Music in a prone restraint and promised to remove them and add a disclaimer about the dangers of restraints, but as of this writing, these scenes were never removed in any release and no disclaimer was added.
- It contains sensory overload, is too loud, and has an excessive amount of strobe effects, making it even more unwatchable for people with not just autism but also some other disabilities than it already is, on top of the overly bright exposure and contrast.
- The musical numbers, while random, are well-choreographed, and the soundtrack is great.
- Good acting from Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr, as well as Brandon Soo Hoo in a supporting role as Tanner.
- Tanner and Zu (to an extent) are likable enough characters.
- The concept of a non-verbal, low-functioning autistic character in the film is good, even if it was executed at its worst here.
The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from both critics and audiences. Rotten Tomatoes, 9% of 45 reviews from critics for Music are positive, with an average rating of 3.7/10. The website's critics' consensus reads, "Offensive in its depiction of autism—and painfully misguided in essentially every respect—Music is a vanity project that begs to be turned down." Meanwhile, Meanwhile, Metacritic, which assigned the film a weighted average score of 23 out of 100 based on 18 critics, the film received "generally unfavorable reviews." Despite this, the film was nominated for two Golden Globes, both of which it lost. In fact, the show's presenters Tina Fey and Amy Poehler called the film an "international floparooni" and "Twitter is saying it's the most offensive casting since Kate Hudson was the Weight Watchers spokesperson" in response to Ziegler playing an autistic person.