The discrepancy in perception of Sia’s feature film debut could be greater MUSIC Hardly possible: While the Hollywood Foreign Press Association awarded the dramatic musical two Golden Globe nominations, the audience and press were uniformly outraged. We reveal why and whether this is justified in our review.
OT: Music (USA 2021)
The plot summary
The orderly, routine-driven everyday life of autistic Music (Maddie Ziegler) is turned upside down when her half-sister Zu (Kate Hudson) comes back into her life after the sudden death of her grandmother, who devotedly looked after Music. Zu is an alcoholic and deals drugs to make ends meet. However, when the big-hearted neighbor Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.) joins the unlikely pair of sisters, Zu and Music slowly become closer again and suddenly everything seems possible.
The feature film debut of acclaimed pop artist Sia, who began directing her own music videos long before her work on “Music,” was hit with major controversy in the run-up to its release. The reason: The native Australian, who also wrote the screenplay for “Music” together with children’s book author Dallas Clayton, cast a non-autistic actress in the role of the autistic protagonist. And not only that: with newcomer Maddie Ziegler (“The Book of Henry”) It is also Sia’s protégé, who has previously appeared in various of the artist’s video clips. Sia herself explained the decision by saying that the attempts to film with an actual autistic person didn’t work because she didn’t feel comfortable in the role. With this justification, Sia was understandably unable to calm the critical voices – she has now even deleted her Twitter account due to the violent reactions that her film has triggered. But the harsh criticism is not just due to Maddie Ziegler’s controversial casting decision. “Music” is simply a thoroughly annoying film in which an autistic girl is made into the “nice to have” of a typical “white savior” story.
Kate Hudson plays Zu, who repeatedly becomes the protagonist of small music videos in “Music”.
The motif of the “White Savior” is a figure that still regularly appears in pop culture works today, who is characterized by two things: she is white and she saves a black person (supposedly selflessly) from an emergency, whereupon she often experiences emotional purification . In the best case scenario, a little information is provided about the grievances in which many African Americans still have to live today. But in the end, it is the deeds of the “white savior” that shine – and he even receives Oscar after Oscar in 2019 (keyword: “Green Book – A Special Friendship”). Sia’s “Music” is not about racial tensions. And yet her film clearly fulfills the narrative requirements of a morally misguided “White Savior” film; With the special feature that it is a non-disabled woman who takes care of her autistic half-sister against her will. She learns from Kate Hudson (“Deepwater Horizon”) With razor-short hair, Zu embodied, above all, finding herself – and not her previously estranged sister Music. This primarily acts as a signpost to guide Zu, who has a history of alcohol and drugs, back on the right path. The script never fully explores her own emotions, worries, fears and needs. Everything the young woman does is intended to further Zu’s character change. Even the film title seems cynical, because “Music” is least of all about music.
“’Music’ clearly fulfills the narrative requirements of a morally misguided White Savior film; With the special feature that it is a non-disabled woman who, against her will, takes care of her autistic half-sister.”
The film actually starts off promisingly and develops its major unique selling point right in the first scene: in her own perception, Maddie Ziegler’s Music repeatedly imagines the world as a brightly colored music video in which the people around her happily sing and dance. If the camera by Sebastian Winterø (“Kajillionaire”) He also films the first steps of his eponymous main character from her perspective and keeps the focus on her throughout the course of time, even when he draws up the image, in order to make the world around Music tangible for the viewer, for a few minutes the feeling of really watching a film about an autistic person. But with the arrival of Kate Hudson, it’s not just music that steadily fades into the background and at some point only acts as an impulse for her sister’s spiritual maturation. Even the staging gimmick of the musical interludes, which was initially clearly tailored to Music’s worldview, eventually becomes absorbed by the other characters, so that it hardly makes any sense in the internal logic of the film and is primarily likely to have a sales-promoting effect on the soundtrack. That’s completely fine for a pleasant pop musical. Nevertheless, Sia’s Vita not only has much stronger pieces than the entire “Music” album. It should also be noted that the musical interludes were only included afterwards in a drama that was actually written without musical elements (Sia received a whopping bonus of 10 million US dollars for the pieces she wrote). The end result therefore never appears to be of a piece – but at least Sia’s passionate staging style, which was already evident in her own video clips, can be identified here. The rest of “Music” cannot keep up with its conventionality.
Kate Hudson shaved her head almost bald for her role.
While Maddie Ziegler, as autistic Music, primarily uses those mannerisms that are visible from the outside (the young woman cannot articulate herself verbally and instead makes barely definable sounds, is quickly stressed due to the constant overstimulation, which leads to seizures, etc.), While her inner life remains hidden from the audience due to the lack of quiet scenes filmed from her perspective, Kate Hudson’s character follows the familiar sequences of purification. The path pursued in “Music” is mapped out from the start: the irresponsible ex-junkie who still earns his money by selling drugs (including to Sia herself!) gradually becomes someone who lovingly looks after his half-sister mother substitute; Crowned with the ultimate victory over yourself, not to give Music into a home, but to decide to continue on the journey together with her. Here and there, Sia can occasionally work out the beginnings of a discourse about the extent to which living with a person who is permanently in need of care either requires one’s own self-sacrifice or enriches one’s life – an approach that is definitely worth discussing and ethically exciting, but which is never perfected in “Music”. finds. Instead, the big discrepancy between Zu and Music’s reality remains limited to a superficial fish-out-of-water dramaturgy: We watch Zu as she gradually comes to terms with her life as her sister’s carer and ultimately the enrichment within her recognizes. However, the film leaves us with the question of how Music himself feels about it.
“The path pursued in ‘Music’ is mapped out from the beginning: the irresponsible ex-junkie who still earns his money by selling drugs gradually becomes a substitute mother who lovingly looks after his half-sister.”
Zu has a few other people at her side who constantly guide her on the right path. Especially that of Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) Played neighbor Ebo almost acts like a saint, showing that you just have to literally smother Music with all your love to do everything right. His ongoing optimism is downright contagious – Odom Jr. simply has the radiant personality. But his character’s ultimate downfall is that the authors failed to provide “Music” with real, lively characters. Instead, they all fit into templates and drawers. One would have expected more from an artist who consistently refuses to allow herself to be put in such a situation.
Conclusion: Sia’s drama “Music”, which features tonally inappropriate musical interludes, claims to be about an autistic girl. But the autistic girl only functions as a gimmick here. In reality, it’s about the clichéd catharsis of an ex-junkie who finally finds himself thanks to his autistic half-sister – and as a reward for this even forgoes putting her in a home.
“Music” is now available on VOD.