Music

 

starstar

 


Kate Hudson is terrific as an alcoholic in Sia’s directorial debut, a courageous, well-meaning, fiercely original car crash of a movie.

   

Music

  

Two weeks ago Music was nominated for a Golden Globe for best film in the musical and/or comedy category. However, before you get too excited, remember this is the same critical body that bestowed that honour on Patch Adams (1998) and the even more egregious The Tourist (2010). Depending on how you approach it, Music is either a courageous, fiercely original work that tackles some of society’s most pressing issues or it’s a self-indulgent vanity project that has been allowed to run riot. The vanity is supplied by Sia, the Australian singer/songwriter who cut her directing teeth on the music video ‘Chandelier’ and decided it was a craft she should take seriously. Here, she directs the entire movie, from her own screenplay – written in collaboration with the children’s illustrator Dallas Clayton – which she also produces and amends with a cameo, playing a pop star.

 

Music is both the film’s motif and its leading lady, a young woman living with severe autism, played by the extraordinarily pretty model and dancer Maddie Ziegler. Music lives a life of seeming privilege, in which her every need is catered to by her grandmother (Mary Kay Place), while music of the sonic variety fills her headphones. Every morning, with a daft smile on her face, Music goes on her daily walk in the friendliest neighbourhood of Los Angeles, with music in her ears, the sun on her face and street vendors pushing treats into her hands. Then her grandmother dies at the kitchen sink and she is entrusted to the care of her half-sister, Zu (Kate Hudson), an alcoholic drug dealer with a shaved head. Yet there may be help next door, from a sympathetic Ghanaian called Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr) who teaches boxing to disadvantaged children. He’s had his own life of tragedy and is currently coming to terms with the fact that his wife has run off with his brother.

 

It’s all a bit much, really. But the hopelessness is punctuated at regular intervals by pop videos of such choreographic madness that one doesn’t know where to look. However, Music is not always excruciating to watch, but the thought of another pop video popping up does keep one on edge. These come out of nowhere and feature very happy children and pretty chorus girls in face paint wearing bizarre, larger-than-life costumes. It’s like the second unit of Sesame Street run amok on a Parisian catwalk mounting an Alexander McQueen retrospective. Needless to say, the accompanying songs are all by Sia and are of the repetitive, bubblegum variety.

 

Yet Music is not without its virtues. Kate Hudson is actually wonderful as Zu (short for Kazu, of course), whose perpetual smile becomes more rigid as the drama progresses. She sings, too (eight numbers), in a part originally earmarked for Shia LaBeouf. And, as always, Leslie Odom Jr brings noble grace to his role as Ebo, following his impressive work in Harriet, Hamilton and One Night in Miami… (as Sam Cooke). Had Hudson and Odom been allowed to go their own way, Music might have evolved into something worthwhile. Meanwhile, Ziegler, for whom her part was especially written, has courted considerable controversy for not being genuinely on the spectrum, a misstep for which Sia has since apologised.

 

Notwithstanding, if Mr Blobby had a favourite film about mental illness and alcoholism, this could well be it.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr, Maddie Ziegler, Mary Kay Place, Beto Calvillo, Juliette Lewis, Kathy Najimy, Tig Notaro, Henry Rollins, Ben Schwartz, Hector Elizondo, Luoyong Wang, Celeste Den, Brandon Soo Hoo, Lena Dunham, Sia, Parvesh Cheena.

 

Dir Sia, Pro Sia and Vincent Landay, Screenplay Sia and Dallas Clayton, Ph Sebastian Winterø, Pro Des Tracy Dishman, Ed Matt Chessé, Curtiss Clayton and Dana Congdon, Music Sia, Labrinth and Craig DeLeon, Costumes Christine Wada, Dialect coach Erik Singer.

 

Landay Entertainment/Pineapple Lasagne/HanWay Films/Atlantic Films/Crush Pictures-Signature Entertainment.

108 mins. USA. 2021. Rel: 15 February 2021. Available on FandangoNOW, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube, etc. Cert. 12.