Bil’s rating (out of 5): B
USA, 2021. Landay Entertainment, Atlantic Films, Crush Pictures, Pineapple Lasagne Productions, Warner Music Entertainment. Story by Sia, Screenplay by Sia, Dallas Clayton. Cinematography by Sebastian Winterø. Produced by Vincent Landay, Sia, Mohammadreza Sohrabi, Can Yesilyurt. Music by Sahin Agasoy, Craig DeLeon. Production Design by Tracy Dishman, Leigh Poindexter. Costume Design by Christine Wada. Film Editing by Brad Besser, Matt Chesse, Curtiss Clayton, Dana Congdon.
Having conquered the world of music as both singer and songwriter many times over, Sia looks to do the same as a filmmaker but, despite some genuinely good intentions to connect emotionally with her audience, she falls flat in her feature debut. Kate Hudson plays Kazu, a struggling addict who is in and out of rehab and learns that, with the passing of her grandmother (Mary Kay Place) and her drug-addicted mother already long gone by this point, she has inherited the responsibility for taking care of her autistic half-sister Music (Maddie Ziegler). If the fact that the main character is named Music is already making you want to break your screen into a thousand pieces and eat each one slowly, it’s best that you don’t proceed from here, but such over-reaching tweeness is not the worst of what really sticks in your craw with this egregiously irritating movie.
Music is a sweet kid who, as with most people of her neurological design, likes things done in an orderly and familiar fashion because it gives her comfort, something that’s not going to be easy to pull off with one caregiver gone and a new, highly unqualified one taking over. Periodically, though, we get to step inside of Music’s mind and in there we find light, colour, and…you guessed it, music, all of it co-written by Sia and performed in the kind of exuberant Tim Burton-meets-Siouxsie And The Banshees style of her videos (many of which Sia also directed). The truth is that a lot of the songs are great, and the cast sound and look wonderful singing and dancing to them, but it’s not convincing that they’re the music in Music’s head, they just sound like songs that Sia wrote and needed an excuse to unload in one encapsulating project.
Moreover, Music herself is not convincing, for while there was understandable controversy over casting the neurotypical Ziegler in the role (followed by an unnecessary overblown media storm begun by Sia’s unwise engaging on social media with people whose only goal was to bring a celebrity to her knees), there’s no denying that in making so very much of an effort to embody the physical attributes of the character, Ziegler comes off as little more than a collection of deeply researched, highly mechanical physical functions and very little else. Hudson, meanwhile, is acting rings around the rest of the cast, but the details of her character are inconsistent (particularly her self-awareness and willingness to deal with her issues), and her work gets lost in a muddy puddle of a plot involving her romance with a kindly Ghanaian neighbour (Leslie Odom Jr.) and her attempts to keep the lights on by becoming a street seller for a suspiciously generous drug dealer (Ben Schwartz).
Without meaning to sound as condescending as this does, Sia’s generous heart really is in the right place, the film is an attempt to use the cathartic power of music (not Music) to help us see life from a very different point of view, but there’s no actual exploring of that perspective or mining the emotional connections between the characters, and too much emphasis is placed on shallow aesthetic splendor. The director’s own cameo as an out of touch version of herself is actually the only time that human behaviour on screen buzzes with cohesive life.
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Kate Hudson)