Review by Jason Cook
You can tell this movie comes from the most humble and warm places. You can feel the warmth from the story. And the wholehearted attempt at bringing a disorder, like Autism, to a place where something as honest and open as music can help create a conversation. All these things maybe, just maybe, might remove even a little bit of stigma.
Music is a wonderfully bright and warm attempt at showing this wonderful world inside the head of a young lady, Music, who has autism. It’s a quirky approach which could only come from the mind of Sia.
Music (Maddie Ziegler) is a 14-year-old who has autism. Her day to day is routine. She wakes, she gets dressed put her headphones on and sits to have her breakfast of two eggs and ketchup. Then she walks out the door on her journey to the library. But she is never alone on her journey with the local dry cleaner’s son keeping an eye on her as he does a local pick up. Even treating her to a slice of watermelon Music stops to accept with wonder and delight. Just before she’s ready to head into the library she stops at the local newsagent kiosk for a handful of pictures of dogs which the agent has torn out of magazines for her.
Music spends her day looking at the same book she has for the many days previously. A book about dogs. Once again Music is accompanied by the local dry cleaners’ son who trails her on the other side of the road before doing the hand over to her grandmother Millie (Mary Kay Place), standing at the window waiting for her return.
It isn’t until Millie sadly passes away that Music’s life heads down an uncertain path. In steps Zu (Kate Hudson), Music’s half-sister who not only is questionably in rehab but also hasn’t seen her sister or grandmother in a number of years. In over her head, Zu realises she has no idea how to look after herself let alone another human.
When Zu fails at realising Music’s routine, even though it is clearly outlined for her, the friendly neighbour Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.) steps in and helps Zu understand what exactly Music hears, sees and processes. The more time Zu and Ebo spend together that happier and more confident Music becomes, but it also unravels a past Ebo hasn’t quite prepared to share.
The movie is broken up into chapters. Each chapter ending with a dance routine in the form of a traditional Sia music video. These singing and dancing routines are a wonderfully clever way to showcase just how maybe Music might be processing the actions of that event in her head.
The movie does start with one of these routines which doesn’t feel like it is quite right to set the tone for the remainder of the film. It can throw the audience off thinking it might be a 1-hour 47-minute long musical. It is classed as a musical drama, but not in the traditional sense where all of a sudden, the entire cast that was innocently walking down the street start dancing to the same song as if they’ve always known it was in them. This is in the form of a dream sequence taking you out of the scene you were watching and throws you into a dream-like song and dance.
The entire project comes from singer-songwriter Sia who also makes a quirky cameo in the film and delivers possibly the funniest line, “Popstar without borders”. Sia co-wrote it with author Dallas Clayton. Sia also directed the film as well as writing 10 of the songs featured in the film. While this isn’t Sia’s first entry into the world of directing, it is her first feature film.
Sia cast Maddie Ziegler as Music. While it may not be a name you’ll recognise you will most certainly know who she is. Ziegler has performed in many of Sia’s music video as well as a large number of her live performances. Ziegler isn’t new to the screen having popped up in many TV and feature films in small parts over the years. Her shot to stardom started in the reality TV series Dance Moms.
Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Bride Wars) who plays Zu manages to capture an out of luck alcoholic a little too comfortably. She taps into something very real which makes her pivot to the caring mother figure all that more emotional for the viewer.
And finally, managing to steal every scene he is in, Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton, Murder on the Orient Express, One Night in Miami) as Ebo. Ebo comes in with every bit of warm and fuzzy he can find in his performance. Every scene is as if the viewer is right next to him soaking up what he’s saying.
Overall, Music feels like a Sia music video interwoven with an award-winning drama. It gives a wonderful warm view of how someone with Autism lives in a world surrounded by love.
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