4 out of 5 stars
Sia has become one of the most influential musicians in the industry due to her songwriting skills, groundbreaking videos and artistic wardrobe. As she rides on her career's success, she took on the daunting task of writing, directing and scoring her first feature-length film. With the title of Music, this project has all of the earmarks of being the perfect work to showcase her talents, artistry and musical style.
Even though the film does capitalise on the award-winning artist's songs, the title is her lead character's name. Music (Maddie Ziegler) lives in the cluttered, but safe apartment of her grandmother and primary caregiver, Millie (Mary Kay Place). Each day is set by regular routines for the autistic young woman. She sets out on her daily walk and is watched over closely by everyone in the community. She manages to find solace in her music. It allows an escape for the winsome girl into her imaginative world of song and dance. This allows the audience to get a glimpse into the mind of someone who experiences autism. One day as she goes along and greets her neighbours, her grandmother passes away in their home. This leads the building's superintendent to reach out to Music’s only relative, Zu (Kate Hudson).
As the older half-sister, she is left to be the primary carer, but is the least qualified person since she is a newly sober drug dealer. Zu quickly determines that she is in way over her head and must rely on the next-door neighbour, Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.), for support. Each of them brings trials and tribulations into the small apartment, but they strive to make things work together. This leads to a series of events that bring their pasts to the surface of this secluded world. At the same time, each moment is accented by the artistry and vision of Music’s uniquely creative mind.
What can be said about this film is that it has the stylish, musical mastery of Sia. Her unparalleled manner of storytelling is woven throughout this magical, visual tale. By portraying her leading lady's innermost thoughts, the artist manages to give audiences a glimpse of the big beautiful world of the autistic mind. While the broken world of Music’s surroundings was filled with flaws, pain and tears, Sia allows viewers to withdraw into her whimsically beautiful world of lyrics and dance. It can be said that the true artists and musicians of the world will be able to embrace this project.
Some may get caught up in the overly-sensitive dialogue that has occurred at the expense of this film. Despite trying to get an autistic actress to play the lead, Sia finally turned over the role to the exceptionally talented Maddie Ziegler. She does have to act like an autistic person, but that is the nature of filmmaking. Her casting choice has led some activists to dismiss this film as less than authentic. This seems odd, since movie-making has always been reliant on acting, especially to portray individuals who may be differently abled. Ziegler is not at the same level as Dustin Hoffman in Rainman or Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker. Still, it is easy to see how she won the role as she showcases her phenomenal talent as a dancer. Regardless of the unfair judgment on Sia and Zeigler, this should not deter people from seeing this marvellous film.
Along with stellar performances from Ziegler, Hudson and Odom Jr., this is a project that will satisfy every fan of the musician behind the camera. No character is wasted by Sia in her directorial debut. Every element introduced throughout the screenplay manages to serve a purpose in moving this story along like a master painter before a canvas. As a director, Sia works to get the most out of each actor and as a musician, her soundtrack captures every scene's essence.
Please do not listen to the naysayers on this film, but take time to hear this film's beautiful vibrant tones. If you allow yourself to be swept away by this melodic narrative, Music will wash over you, calm your soul and have you singing all the way through life.
Reel Dialogue: Sometimes, you do not need to say anything to say it all
One character who left the most significant impression on the film was Felix played by Beto Calvillo. His on-screen presence is impossible to miss, even though he never speaks a word. Fascinatingly, this character has no lines in the whole movie. Yet, he proves to be an influential force who quietly sets the standard for caring for your neighbour. Through his actions and mere existence, the young actor blesses the people in his life and, at the same time, the audience.
‘But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.’ 1 Peter 3:4
One of the greatest struggles throughout our lives is finding the right thing to say in any given situation. What most people forget is that sometimes less is more. Words have value, but many times actions do ‘speak louder than words.’ If your words fail you when trying to serve others, it can be worthwhile to give good deeds a try and let the talk follow. Words and actions can be a winning combination. Yet, sometimes simple acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on you and your community.
‘But be doers of the word, and not hearers only…’ James 1:22