Music Review

Recovering addict Zu (Kate Hudson) is reunited with her autistic half-sister Music (Maddie Ziegler) after the death of their grandmother. When the struggles of her new life prove too much, Zu adopts Music’s habit of escaping into a fantasy world full of song and dance.

by Beth Webb |
Published on
Release Date:

15 Feb 2021

Original Title:


Stepping out from under her giant wig to head behind a movie camera, multi-platinum-selling musician Sia delivers a tumultuous directorial debut. The musical drama about a struggling, self-made family sets out with heartfelt intention and pop song-infused messages of empowerment and inclusion. Its release has been marred by controversy, however, after the announcement that Sia’s neurotypical muse Maddie Zeigler would play the autistic teen lead character, Music.


Zeigler commits her elastic physicality to the role (in her fantasies she is without her disorder), but the casting choice is too distracting and too damaging. What’s more, as the tonally chaotic plot rumbles on, Music is pushed to the sidelines and Zu’s (Kate Hudson) battle with addiction and burgeoning relationship with neighbour Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr) snatch the spotlight. It’s unlikely that making Zeigler the film’s central star would make Music a better film, but it would at least give more agency to Sia’s defence of casting her.

At best forgettable, at worst a disservice to the marginalised people that the film markets itself as championing.

Both Hudson and Odom Jr frenetically fling themselves into the film’s musical, retina-stinging reveries. Hamilton heavyweight Odom Jr brings a welcome dash of humility and dynamic integrity to the trio, while Hudson is energised but confined to playing a reductive blueprint of a recovering addict. The vignettes — each grander versions of Sia’s vastly successful music videos — are ambitiously choreographed with Alice In Wonderland proportions and patterns. Yet this attempt to boldly navigate issues of disability and addiction via a Technicolor pantomime translates as crass, and the accompanying songs are hackneyed paeans to love and inclusion that feel sterile and sprawling.

So inflated and frequent are these musical set-pieces that they shrink the storyline down to a saccharine, underdeveloped family drama that is at best forgettable, at worst a disservice to the marginalised people that the film markets itself as championing. Throwing in a bizarre director cameo in which Sia flaunts her humanitarianism only confirms that Music is one self-serving, charmless filmmaking debut.

Overused, hyper-stylised pop numbers aren’t enough to mask the catastrophic misjudgements that Sia has exercised here. Were Music merely hokey it could be forgiven, but its ham-fisted approach to sensitive issues make this a massive misfire.
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