Movie review: Music
Australian pop singer-songwriter Sia's passion project, which she directed, wrote and produced, has not exactly been music to most critics' ears.
Instead, Music made headlines months before its release for all the wrong reasons.
By casting her long-time muse Maddie Ziegler - the child dancer who frequently appeared in her music videos and live performances - as the titular autistic and non-verbal teen, and aggressively defending her decision on social media, Sia enraged mental disability communities and the woke police, who have since launched a cancel crusade against her and her directorial debut.
The musical drama is well intentioned and comes from the heart, but it is impossible to get through it without mixed feelings.
The backlash proves that certain representations and stereotypes, however innocently executed, have become even more problematic and charged in the 2020s.
One can understand how getting an attractive neurotypical actress like Ziegler to play a neurodivergent character can be considered offensive or tone-deaf, especially when her mannerisms and tics are distracting at best and cringeworthy at worst.
But in her first lead role, it is obvious the 18-year-old has earnestly put in the work, and she does shine in several quieter moments.
Yet, on the flip side, Music is also a film interspersed with vibrant, visually stunning musical interludes (read: Sia music videos), and Sia obviously required a professional dancer to pull off her signature kooky interpretive choreography.
The 10 original tracks featured are not instant power pop anthems such as Titanium or Chandelier, but there are some earworms such as 1+1 and Together.
And while all the attention has fallen on the controversy surrounding Ziegler, Kate Hudson is actually the film's true star and plot driver as the damaged big sis. It is her redemption story, complemented by the tender relationship that blossoms between her and Music's neighbour Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.), who has his own demons to conquer.
With her shorn head and unglamorous imaging, Hudson goes to some emotionally raw and dark places, and really puts it out there in the song-and-dance department too.
She is nominated for Best Actress - Motion Picture Comedy or Musical at the upcoming Golden Globe Awards, which also inexplicably included Music in the Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy category.
Not surprisingly, this hasn't gone down well. A Change.org petition calling for the film's Globe nods to be rescinded has received more than 100,000 signatures.
We will just have to see come March 1 if Sia will be hiding her face under those big wigs again.
STARRING: Kate Hudson, Maddie Ziegler, Leslie Odom Jr.
THE SKINNY: Newly sober free spirit Zu (Hudson), who has been estranged from her family, finds herself the sole guardian of her young autistic half-sister Music (Ziegler) after the sudden death of their grandmother.