I did it. What can I say? I have my masochistic moments. I bit the bullet (as it were) and watched Sia’s film ‘Music’ in all its lack of glory. It’s bad, y’all. I mean Bad bad. Capital ‘B’ BAD.
Before I go any farther let’s get the obvious out of the way. SPOILER ALERT. I mean, the movie is already rancid but if you’re worried about ruining the ‘surprise’ for yourself stop reading now. You’ve gotten the TLDR by now.
So I’ve been openly criticizing this project since the moment I first saw a trailer for it. Actually from before that, because paparazzi pictures of the park scenes leaked online and I could tell just from those that this wouldn’t be good, but people said “don’t judge the film by its trailer alone” (even though that’s exactly what movie trailers are for.) “Watch it first,” they said. So I have done. (And I have much many several regerts.)
I’ll say this right now: I honestly *tried* to keep an open mind. I really and truly did.
So we open with Maddie Zeigler trying her best to give the performance her director asked her to give. She did what she could under Sia’s direction. After seeing her full performance I can understand why it is she cried on set and worried that Autistics would feel made fun of. I imagine that’s what it must’ve felt like for her, trying to fill that role. I’m sorry to report that I *did* feel mocked. It was almost exactly the way I felt in school when my peers mimicked my mannerisms. Had she been Autistic herself or at the very least coached by an Autistic actor, this might have been a different movie. But she did try really hard, that’s for sure. And she did her best with what she had to work with as far as script and direction. All of the cast did.
Within two minutes of the opening the first music video begins, complete with inexplicably garish costumes and a flashing strobe light effect which gave me a migraine and made me instantly dizzy. I worry for folks who have Epilepsy triggered by flashing lights, as I didn’t notice a warning for that. Nor did a see any warning about the restraint scenes that Sia announced would precede screenings, although I did watch at home and not in a theater. In addition to the flashing lights and harmful restraint scenes, there is drug and alcohol use/abuse, domestic violence/abuse against a minor (a supporting character), and several scenes where the Autistic character has meltdowns or is in distress and hits herself. There are also several scenes that have a spinning effect that was quite dizzying with visual processing issues. One in particular has a really busy set covered in a repeating pattern with all of the props and costumes (down to the shoes) made out of the same pattern. I almost threw up at that point because it made my vertigo go haywire.
From what I gathered, the musical cut scenes with fantastical costumes and Sia’s music blaring are supposed to be what’s going on inside the character Music’s mind. Or, I guess it’s what Sia assumed goes on inside an Autistic person’s head.
Granted, I’m not fully non-speaking. I was actually hyperlexic as a child, but almost all of my speech is either scripted or echolalia. I certainly couldn’t say all of this out loud to anyone spontaneously. Certainly not coherently. I’d have to write it and rehearse it numerous times. But I do have an Autistic brain that loses speech more often than not, and sometimes words themselves go and I’ve only got images and flashes of movie clips in my brain like my own personal gif bank. But I digress.
Here’s an excellent piece by Hari Srinivasan for folks looking for additional perspective from a non-speaking individual.
The music scenes are…. disturbing. Even without the migraine and/or seizure inducing lights combined with an overabundance of bold, bright colors that look like a puzzle piece ribbon regurgitated all over the place plus the *cough* “costumes” that made me think of a Teletubbies/Wiggles crossover, even without *gestures a vague circular motion* aaaallllll of that going on, there’s something happening with everyone’s faces that I can only describe as “facial choreography” which is obviously intentional because everyone does it. As a result the dance choreography (which is already awkward to begin with) ends up looking like something you’d see on stage at a toddler pageant, except it’s teens and adults mugging it up instead of small children.
The last thing I saw Leslie Odom Jr in was Hamilton. I wish I could still say that. His talent is boundless, but Sia sure did try to reign him. He did a great job, considering the script and director. Unfortunately his character is the first to pin Music to the floor, a grown man on top of a teenage girl, face to face on the floor. All the while he’s telling Kazu (yes, the sisters are Music and Kazu. Really, Sia?) that he’s not hurting Music, that it’s good for her and it’s what should be done when she’s having a meltdown. “You’re safe. I’m crushing you with my love,” he says to Music.
And why does wise Ebo know so much about meltdowns? Because he had a brother “like that” who preferred to be squashed during a meltdown. In a movie that’s supposed to be…. what did Sia say? Her supposed “love letter” to the autism community? Yeah. Never uses the words autism or Autistic anywhere. One hour and forty-seven minutes, who knows how many lines, and nobody ever even says it.
When we first meet Kazu she’s passed out in an AA meeting. She’s struggling to work the program and is doing illegal activity. The movie is basically about her, it should be called Kazu rather than Music. The only full story arc is hers, and it’s pretty infuriating. A rather stereotypical portrayal of addiction that segues into a rather stereotypical portrayal of a Martyr(tm) caregiver. (Insert sarcastic joke about Sia writing in extra stereotypes just for the heck of it.)
Our basic plot line is how much having to care for Music has disrupted an already dysfunctional life. Kazu takes Music with her on drug deals (she runs pills for someone) where they happen to meet Sia playing a cameo as an I assume fictional version of herself, where she’s naturally a hero who isn’t buying drugs to party, but rather to fly them to Haiti to give to all the helpless little children there because her private jet can accomplish what The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders cannot. All hail Sia the Smuggling Saviour.
Music finally gets an AAC device. Now she’s allowed to say, “I am happy,” “I am sad,” and she’s got a button for “I am scared” for when Zu is having her own meltdown and trashing Granny’s apartment (after rather predictably losing thousands of dollars worth of pills the dealer fronted her that were supposed to be headed to the starving children of Haiti.)
Since Music interferes so much with the drug dealing business and Zu’s plans to live on the beach in Costa Rica, Zu decides it’s best for everyone to dump Music in an institution. Only in the last ten minutes or so does she finally realize that Music is actually worth all of the stress and trouble and embarrassment from people staring, after all. Music’s presence in her life has taught her the ultimate lesson, her sister is a person who has value. Now everyone cry and start the slow clap. Zu deserves it. Sia deserves it. We all deserve the show clap for getting through that travesty of a film.
Oh I left out the “best” part! (Please note that sarcasm, there.) Remember how I said there’s domestic violence? Well as it happens there’s a young man who is part of the group of people from the neighborhood who help look out for Music when she goes on her daily circuit. His dad is abusing him and his mother. We see him a lot throughout the film. He doesn’t say much but you can tell he’s a good kid. Sweet teenage boy, big tall teddy bear type. Might have a little crush on Music, it’s hard to say but he definitely cares about her. I wanted to ship them, anyway. We see him apply for a three legged service dog just before he gets fed up enough with his dad to step between an argument. He gets knocked down, unconscious. Blood from his head, and a lot of it. Mother screams in distress… We don’t see him again after that (I guess Sia’s not one for closure), but soon after there’s a knock on the door and a delivery for Music. He applied for the dog for her. Darling boy. That’s about the only part where I felt something other than rage while watching this movie.
I demand a refund for my money AND time. I feel like society as a whole should sue Sia for pain and suffering. It’s that bad, y’all.