A lot has been written about this movie before it has even come out which also means, in some cases before it’s even been seen. I always try to remain objective before seeing the movie, so I never read other people’s reviews. Hence all I knew was that it was the directorial debut of multi-Grammy nominee and internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter and pop icon Sia. Based on a short story by the singer, the action revolves around the life of a young girl with special needs. Such topics can be a tad tricky for me, having lived with a mostly hidden disability for over 20 years. I wasn’t too sure what to expect or what my reaction would be.
Music, the movie is the story of Zu (Kate Hudson), a free spirit estranged from her family, she’s busy living a full life and then some. But her history of drug abuse has well and truly caught up with her and she’s finds herself struggling to make ends meet.
When her grandmother passes away Zu is named the sole guardian of her half-sister called Music (Maddie Ziegler). This comes as a godsend to Zu who finally has a place to stay. It does however mean she has to consider the needs of someone other than herself, something she hasn’t had to do since leaving home.
Music is a teenager on the autism spectrum who lives with their grandmother. A grandmother who has lovingly crafted a world of calm and structure that enabled Music to have elements of freedom. As an example every day she leaves the apartment and walks around the community aided by the watchful eyes of neighbours who report on her progress until she is safely back home. Also there to help is neighbour Ebo (Odom Jr.) who has his own issues.
The sudden passing of the grandmother and arrival of Zu throw Music’s life into chaos. But with the watchful loving eye of her local community, Zu soon learns the benefit of opening up and asking for help, both for herself and her sister.
Stylistically, Music the movie is a highly original, visual, sensory and emotional explosion. Prepare to be overwhelmed. The clue is in the title. The power of music is front and centre. The story cleverly unfolds around a series of pop art styled music video clips which must have kept the designers, choreographers and dancers up all night. I was exhausted just watching them. The movie is also a celebration of imagination, life, family, community, acceptance, trust and a reminder that there is no shame in asking for help.
As the music played over the credits I sat thinking about what I’d seen. To my mind at its core a movie is meant to entertain, that’s it. If you’re lucky it might also educate you and leave you thinking about yourself and or life in general. If you’re really lucky it will move you and stay with you for a few hours. Music, the movie, did that in spades.
One song has stayed with me for weeks, particularly the phrase – “Imagination sets my spirit free. Body don’t fail me now.” As a person with a disability the later is a familiar refrain. And the former is something I will try to work on more.
Also as a person with a disability I totally understand and respect the sentiment around casting non-disabled actors in disabled roles. Depending on the circumstances like the style of movie I totally agree e.g. a documentary. Having watched the movie now, it’s interesting to ponder why the same argument wasn’t made for Kate Hudson’s drug addict/dealer role.
As a past carer, and member of a carers advisory group, it was nice to see a light shone on this important and under represented role.
It was a shame the action fell into a very Hollywood sentimental wedding song at one point. That scene jarred.
The bottom line is Music is a musical drama not a documentary. Regardless of your opinion about the casting, Maddie Zeigler should be commended for her portrayal, so too Hudson. It would be a shame if the strong messages of imagination, community, acceptance, the power of music and asking for help, got lost in the debate. Many of these messages are much needed in the current precarious climate.
Watch for some interesting cameos.
For more information go to Luna Cinema