MUSIC is multi-grammy nominee, internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter and pop icon Sia's directorial debut. She also co-wrote the screenplay based on her own short story. The film will be in cinemas 14 Jan 2021. It stars Golden Globe-winning Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) as Music's half-sister, Tony and Grammy winner Leslie Odom Jr (Hamilton) as the neighbour, and Maddie Ziegler as Music in her film debut. Ziegler has been Sia's friend and creative muse since 2014 when Sia directed her in the video for global smash hit Chandelier. With a running time of 107 minutes, it also features Héctor Elizondo as George and Mary Kay Place as Music's grandmother Millie.
The story begins when Zu (Hudson), estranged from her family and a lifelong self-saboteur, finds herself the sole guardian of Music (Ziegler), her teenage half-sister, after the death of their grandmother. Music is nonverbal and on the autism spectrum, and her grandmother has lovingly created a schedule and daily routine to support her with the help of some neighbourhood friends. Not having had her grandmother's experience of loving and caring for Music, Zu struggles with her new responsibility as a caretaker. Their less than peaceful first breakfast together is overheard by their neighbour Ebo (Odom), a kind and gentle soul who surprises Zu by demonstrating not only his compassion but his keen understanding of Music.
MUSIC is a powerful, original, and celebratory artistic statement and a cinematic experience as profound and unique as its title character. Through her singular lens, Sia shines a fresh spotlight on the many talents of the cast which is a visual pleasure. Deeply felt and a bold and compelling reinvention of the screen musical, it's the story of how individuals struggle and then come together and create community. Their journey is supported by incredible sound, visuals and dance, all choreographed by Sia's longtime collaborator Ryan Heffington. The film features ten musical numbers built around original Sia compositions written expressly for the film and performed by its remarkable cast.
The musical drama explores the tenuous bonds that hold us together and imagines a world where those bonds can be strengthened in times of great challenge: love, trust, and being able to be there for each other is everything. MUSIC started life as a short story and Maddie Ziegler's character is based on a young boy on the autism spectrum who Sia met and developed a deep connection with. One day, his mother, a sign language interpreter said, Who will love him when I'm gone?, a question posed by all parents of children with disabilities. That was the genesis of the story that became MUSIC.
The talent of the cast is undeniable! Hudson shines as does Ziegler, which makes it hard to believe this is her debut film. As colourful and engaging and explosive and imaginative as it is with the musical numbers, it's also weighted and intense and all about love and redemption. It's refreshing because there's nothing else like it. It's art in motion and will connect with you on an emotional level. Sia has reinvented the musical and has tackled marrying profound human drama with a touch of comedy. It'll break your heart a little, then make you laugh and put it back together again. There's lightness, darkness and humour well blended to create this artistic masterpiece.
Amongst an impressive supporting cast, actor Beto Calvillo as the friendly neighbourhood support person Felix stood out for me. Born and raised in Houston, TX, he's a salsa dancer who went on to represent Texas at the World Salsa Championships in his teens. He has performed and competed in various countries and danced and taught for 12 years before his first acting/dancing role in MUSIC. Like all the best Hollywood discovery stories, Beto was working at a furniture store when he was approached by a mutual friend in the dance community about an audition for this role. After a month of auditions and a screen test, he landed the part. His supporting story running in the background of the film was gut-wrenching and heartwarming; his character silent and loveable and begs you to never judge a book by its cover. In closing, one has to say hats off to costume designer Christine Wada who believes all good visuals should tell a hidden story, and did an amazing job with her creations.