A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published January 13th 2021
A film by Sia
Music is the debut directorial feature film by Sia, and it is one that packs an intense emotional punch. It documents a grandmother (Mary Kay Place), caring for her autistic granddaughter who is named Music. To say Music (Maddie Ziegler) sees the world differently from others is an understatement, as throughout the film there are vivid dance scenes that illustrate Music's view of the world. However, when Music's grandmother suddenly dies, her estranged half-sister Zu (Kate Hudson) is conscripted as a guardian, aided by the community in the apartment building, which includes Ebo (Leslie Odom Jnr) and George (Héctor Elizondo).
Apart from directing, Sia also co-wrote the script and composed and sang all the songs. This is Sia's brainchild and a step up from her previous work directing and producing music videos. The film garners comparisons with the 1988 film Rain Man, which also included a selfish sibling conscripted to look after an autistic person, essentially a play on an odd couple scenario storyline.
Sia was also involved in casting the film and the main players are not only convincing in their portrayals as actors, but also very fine dancers, which is no small feat. The aforementioned dance dream-like sequences feature Sia's trademark look of big hair, bows and really bright contrasting primary colours.
Music is a contemporary musical for the 21st century, and like all musicals, it is an acquired taste. The ultra-bright dance sequence occurrences jolt the viewer away from the film's narrative of the two sisters finding out how each other works. The placing of the series of music videos throughout is daring scripting but can also be quite jarring at times. Some of the minor roles contain incomplete storylines and a few plot coincidences are just plain implausible.
The casting has evoked some controversy as the lead character of Music is played by an actor who is not a neurodivergent (autistic) person. The question is how much connection the actor Maggie Ziegler has been able to transfer onto the screen as a neurodivergent (autistic) person and how much is stereotypical. It would have been more daring for the whole cast if an autistic actor was cast in the lead role.
Sia's Music is ultra-bright and intense and covers the big themes on how humans live, communicate and connect. It is not essential to like Sia's music but it is definitely an advantage. A film for the adventurous at heart.