What Critics Are Saying About Sia's Controversial New Film

'Music,' about a teen girl on the autism spectrum, is getting widely panned
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2021 7:24 AM CST

It's been a tumultuous few months for Sia Furler, whose new film, Music, officially comes out Friday amid a good amount of controversy. Furler's directorial debut—about a newly sober drug dealer named Zu (played by Kate Hudson) who suddenly finds herself the caretaker of her teen half-sister Music (played by Maddie Ziegler), who's on the autism spectrum—brought backlash as soon as the trailer dropped. People weren't pleased that, instead of casting an actor on the autism spectrum to play the titular character, Sia chose longtime collaborator Ziegler. Scenes in the movie where Music is restrained also brought outrage from the autism community, per USA Today. Sia soon found herself issuing mea culpas, saying she "listened to the wrong people" and that her "research was clearly not thorough enough." She then deleted her Twitter account. Despite being nominated for two Golden Globes (for best musical or comedy, and a best actress nod for Hudson), reviews are now starting to trickle in, and ... well, the news isn't great. A roundup from around the internet:

  • "What could have been a joyful look at the inner world of a teen girl on the autism spectrum is instead a formulaic drug-addict drama with nonsensical musical sequences," Brian Truitt writes for USA Today. "Hey, at least the songs are pretty good."
  • "Every baffling minute of Sia's profoundly ill-conceived directorial debut will make you ask 'why?'" is David Ehrlich's take, writing for IndieWire that the film is a "staggeringly tone-deaf display of magical thinking." He also doesn't get how Hudson got a Golden Globe nod for acting in a musical or comedy, when "the film around her is barely musical and tragic from start to finish."
  • The bottom line for Leslie Felperin: "Cringe." In fact, she writes for the Hollywood Reporter, the movie is "a sentimental atrocity so cringe-inducing it should come with an advisory warning for anyone with preexisting shoulder or back injuries."

  • Pete Hammond calls the movie "misguided" and a "jumbled mess," writing for Deadline that the movie's "schizophrenic swings between straight drama and disconnected musical numbers are so off-balance that it is hard to take it seriously at all."
  • A "hodge-podge of giddy numbers and narrative tropes" is how Luke Buckmaster describes the film for the Guardian, with his only praise reserved for the "unmissable" set design and costumes. Otherwise, "one gets the unfortunate sense that several people involved ... would like this film to be washed off their CVs with a high-powered hose."
  • Stephen A. Russell isn't as harsh as some of the other critics, writing for Time Out that the film is "well-intentioned," the dancing "impressive," and the work of the cast "serviceable" (including comedian Tig Notaro, who "steals the show" in a small part). In the end, though, he's just kind of bored. "Sia's robust response to the criticism and the resulting controversy are sadly the most interesting things about the movie," he writes.
  • Chris Willman is similarly lukewarm. "Taken from moment to moment, with some enjoyable ones along the way, Music is not the complete disaster its four-year stint in the can would suggest," he writes for Variety. He also says Hudson's character "deserves her own movie."
Music will be available on Apple TV, Fandango, and Vudu starting Friday. Watch the trailer here. (Read more Sia Furler stories.)

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