While 2021’s Golden Globes nominations seem to have given a lot of attention to the already controversial film Music, recording artist Sia’s directorial debut hasn’t been put through the paces of critical review. At least, it hadn’t until recently, as reactions to the film starring Maddie Ziegler, Leslie Odom Jr. and Kate Hudson have now started to come in. It’s an interesting field of reactions, to say the least, but the consensus seems to be trending towards the disastrous in these early moments.
The basic gist of Music is that it tells the story of a young girl, literally named Music (Dance Moms alum and The Book of Henry co-star Maddie Ziegler) who comes into the care of her half-sister Zu (Marshall co-star Kate Hudson). Becoming Music’s new guardian, Zu struggles with caring for the half-sister she never knew, which is an added challenge as Music has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Through Music’s point of view, the world bursts into very colorful, extremely energetic musical numbers from time to time.
It’s an approach that sees Music striving to balance themes of mental health and family drama alongside the set-pieces and panache of a big ticket Hollywood musical. And depending on who you talk to, the results aren’t as balanced as Sia would have thought. In our first review from Teo Bugbee of The New York Times, Music’s attempts at conscious entertainment resulted in the following:
This is a bizarre movie, one that parades confused ideas about care, fantasy and disability with a pride that reads as vanity. It is audacious, in the sense that making it certainly took some audacity.
Don’t think that Music is only getting raked over the coals though, as there are some that defend the experience as a positive one. Alex Clement over at HeyUGuys was one of the few reviews to speak towards an enjoyment of the film, and there’s some very specific reasoning as to why. Though Clement does caveat that opinion as follows:
Despite the film's controversy, the film is a beautiful piece of art, and a great accomplishment for a first time director.
David Ehrlich from Indiewire was another detractor who was not buying into Music’s supposed charms. Strangely enough, his view of the film is able to boil it down to one single word, and its multipurpose usage throughout the entirety of the story:
Why? It's a question that almost every baffling minute of Sia's ill-conceived "Music" inspires you to ask in some form or another, often with a different inflection but always with the same urgency.
Perhaps the greatest controversy that Music has encountered is the fact that while Sia cast frequent collaborator Maddie Ziegler as the lead character, she had an opportunity to give this part to an actor with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. This flashpoint in public discourse surrounding the film has recurred frequently in conversations surrounding it, but Simon Foster at Screen-Space mentions that while this is an issue, Music rises above and delivers the win:
Yes, we want ASD actors cast in parts drawn from their life experiences, but we cannot deny that Music considers those experiences with heart, integrity and artistry regardless.
Our last review comes from Variety’s Chris Willman, who, while delivering a negative review of Music, did have some positives to take away. And one such positive is the performance of Kate Hudson as Zu, with Willman commenting as such in the following excerpt:
Kate Hudson's excellent performance as a recovering alcoholic goes a good way toward grounding a bifurcated movie musical that doesn't have its treatment of autism as its only problem.
As Music is heading into theaters for this weekend, the critical reception so far seems to indicate that despite some good spots, the film on the whole isn’t particularly enlightening or uplifting when it comes to its subject matter. With Golden Globe nominations for Kate Hudson as Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, as well as a Best Picture nomination in that same genre classification, Music is undoubtedly going to be in the public consciousness in the run up to the big night. Though it might not be for the reasons Sia and all involved would have hoped.