This Music trailer landed in my inbox in dispute, which I am here to settle. Lainey isn’t feeling it, but our site manager Emily (who is way nicer than the rest of the team) is feeling it (Emily: Sia and Maddie have done incredible work together for years). I am here to tell you that… I have no idea what is going on with this.
The film (which Sia co-wrote and directs) has a lot going on: Kate Hudson plays Zu, a woman in recovery from addiction who suddenly gains custody of her half-sister (played by Maddie Ziegler) who has a disability. From there it’s a journey of discovery, guided by their neighbour (played by Leslie Odom Jr.). There’s music, that big Sia music, and costumes and singing and colourful sets, like a bunch of music videos folded into a movie.
I’m not against this format as I loved Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which used music to explore the inner life of characters. Musical works best when the jazz hands tell the story, not when they distract from it. Going by the short trailer, the musical numbers look imaginative but the acting falls flat. Even Kate Hudson, who is pretty charming in these roles, feels a bit wooden in her delivery.
The tropes (the orphan who teaches someone about life! the all-knowing neighbour who can easily explain the complicated care of a special needs person! the person with a disability who exists to teach neurotypical people about themselves!) are pretty cliché, which doesn’t mean they can’t ever work, but being judicious with their use is wise, from a storytelling point of view. There’s also the concern that the neighbour storyline could be what’s referred to as a “Magical Negro” character (please click here if you are unfamiliar with this phrase and how it is used today in films).
So is Music a hot mess or heartwarming? Right now I’m leaning toward the former. That all being said, Sia is wildly creative. This is a huge swing for her and it is going to be released on IMAX (???) in February 2021. That’s a very specific choice for this type of movie at a time when theatre attendance is extremely shaky. The confusion continues.