16th Feb2021

‘Music’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr, Maddie Ziegler, Mary Kay Place, Hector Elizondo, Ben Schwartz, Beto Calvillo  | Written by Sia, Dallas Clayton | Directed by Sia

Let me stop you for one quick second before we get into this… If you have clicked on this review to see another critic tear Sia apart for her ill-advised casting choices, then you may as well jog on because that discussion has no place here. I completely understand the argument and why people are having a go; I have my opinions on the matter but, unlike 90% of the internet, I don’t have much interest in expressing them here. This right here is a review of the movie and the performances therein.

With that little bit of housekeeping out of the way we can get into the directorial debut of Sia with Music, a movie I knew very little about until the trailer dropped. However I’m somewhat of a fan of this ladies music, I’m always intrigued by her videos and I guess I was just curious what a “Sia movie” would look like.

Zu (Hudson) is a recovering addict trying to get her life back on the straight and narrow with very little success. She is pulled back home when she receives news she has become the sole guardian of her Autistic half-sister Music (Ziegler). Music and the cast of colorful characters in and around her life are about to help Zu rediscover the meaning of family and help find her true self no matter how much she fights against it.

First up Ziegler. I get it this young woman is not autistic and there are plenty of young women who are. However I am putting that conversation at arms length and saying that Maddie Ziegler did an outstanding job here; this is not an easy role to play by any stretch but anyone who knows anything about this girl after watching her on TV and doing research can tell that, yes, she is a little socially awkward with a mountain of talent. Shame on anyone who takes this performance away from her. Five or ten years ago she would be in the conversation for Best Supporting Actress for this role, she is that good. I personally don’t think she did a disservice to anyone she was representing and her portrayal was very real to me, there was no over-egging of the condition and I think we have a future star on our hands. For me she was perfect!

Kate Hudson is absolutely superb too. I prefer the damaged characters she plays and Zu falls into that bracket. Not taking the world around her seriously enough and living hopelessly carefree, strangely she brings a bright shining light to the role and the trio of Hudson, Ziegler and Odom Jr is pretty captivating throughout. Her more intimate one-on-one scenes are where this movie shines, as she pulls every other actor to her level and just makes them all the better for it.

The supporting cast in Music is a merry band of misfits, with the neighbors being Hector Elizondo and Leslie Odom Jr., the latter of which truly grounds the Zu character for the audience; while Elizondo is a sort of protective blanket for our sisters. I can’t think of anything I’ve seen Odom Jr. in but there is an instant familiarity with him as an actor that I couldn’t shake. Ben Schwartz turns up in a drug dealer capacity and is pretty solid. Then there is Felix, played by Beto Calvillo, where the hell did they find this kid? Calvillo plays this character so expertly and masterfully that with this small role he almost steals the movie from under everyone and his “moment” is so damn tragically beautiful I couldn’t believe this was his first feature.

Speaking of first time out, let’s get into Sia as a director… Now up top I have been giving glowing references to the cast and rightly so because everyone is super strong in this movie but I do have some slight issues. I don’t know what happened with some of these scenes and it feels like along the way we have lost some stuff (maybe for timing constraints?) and it left me a little unsure of how we got here and I ended up worried I had missed something? Stories not entirely fleshed out so you miss the pay off a little. HOWEVER… the movie looks gorgeous and genuinely shows a vibrant beautiful side of the city. The musical dance scenes are everything you could hope for from Sia and more. I particularly loved the concept of instead of having the scenes play out on screen, we will have a dance number that seemingly has nothing to do with what’s happening but it’s actually clever exposition-style storytelling. I loved it. I genuinely think Music is a very accomplished movie, not without its faults or dramas but Sia and her team have created a beautiful intelligent movie with a killer soundtrack.

So yeah I’m a fan of Music. Is it perfect? No it’s not. But the problems I have are papered over by a very strong cast, all hitting their marks perfectly. I am going to end this by saying Maddie Ziegler is great in this role and did a wonderful job, easily the star of the movie and no matter your feelings on the off-screen politics you can’t deny how great she is in this role.

**** 4/5

One Response to “‘Music’ Review”

  • Nathan Favel

    I’m glad I read this review. I was considering seeing this at some point and this review has made me comfortable with devoting the time to seeing a picture that was otherwise reviled thus far. I don’t really like the premise of the picture, but I hope the picture itself is better than the concept of it. Anyway, this was a good review to me.