Sia’s new film Music has been savaged by the critics, making it more of a critical failure than one of the most infamous bombs in recent year.
The new film, starring Kate Hudson and Maddie Ziegler, has been given a rating of just 17% on Rotten Tomatoes – in comparison to the 20% achieved by 2019’s critical disaster Cats.
Cats – the big screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical – was roundly decimated in reviews and was mined for memes following its release in December 2019, destined to become a midnight screening cult classic.
However, Music doesn’t seem to have been afforded the same hysterical reaction, and has done even worse in review aggregation.
The Rotten Tomatoes synopsis for Music reads: ‘Offensive in its depiction of autism—and painfully misguided in essentially every respect—Music is a vanity project that begs to be turned down.’
Among the reviews on the site was that of the Sydney Morning Herald, which read: ‘Though the film may lack the sickening nightmare quality of Tom Hooper’s screen version of Cats – apparently set in some version of hell – it’s scarcely less of a baffling fiasco, and may inspire a similar cult of ironic enthusiasts who return repeatedly to gawk at the wreckage.’
The Guardian said that not casting an autistic person as Music was a ‘problem, especially given the cartoonishness of [Ziegler’s] portrayal, which sees her gurning, grimacing and mumbling through her scenes’.
Vanity Fair wrote: ‘It often feels like a movie made decades ago, one of those smarmily well-intentioned Hollywood exercises in issue-peddling that demands the gratitude of an entire community of people’, while the Hollywood Reporter said: ‘While it has a few incidental felicities to admire, by and large Music is a sentimental atrocity so cringe-inducing it should come with an advisory warning for anyone with pre-existing shoulder or back injuries.’
Music – Sia’s feature-length directorial debut – stars Hudson as Zu, a recovering addict who is tasked with looking after her half-sister Music (Ziegler) after their grandmother dies.
Much of the film is shown through Music’s lens; while she is autistic and non-verbal, we see how she sees the world through musical scenes.
Addressing the backlash, the Chandelier singer tweeted: ‘Casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.
‘… I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as f***ing prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers. F***ing sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place.’
Maddie, who is 18 but shot the film when she was 14, defended her collaborator, telling the Independent: ‘I understand why people would want someone who’s actually on the spectrum with autism to play this character.
‘But in terms of the dance sequences, I think hat’s why Sia chose me to bring the dream world to life. It was all [made] with good intentions and with a good heart.’
While the reviews have been largely negative, Music did get nominated for best motion picture – musical or comedy at the Golden Globes.
It faces Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Hamilton, Palm Springs and The Prom at the ceremony.