‘Music’ Review: A Woefully Misguided View of Disability


The crowning drama “Music” presents its central character in a song and dance sequence that gasps for air so blatantly that the scene almost demands that the film be shown in the cinemas. At least then the audience could exercise the right to go out.

The film is directed by pop singer and songwriter Sia and plays her frequent collaborator Maddie Ziegler as an autistic teenager named Music. The film begins with Ziegler performing an interpretive dance to a new song by Sia about failing bodies and the liberation of spirits.

Ziegler’s dance is as expressive as ever, but she has been directed to pantomime an exaggerated apery of disability. She yawns, her eyes wide and unfocused, while the choreography leads her through a cruel convergence of twitches and oops. Neither Ziegler nor Sia are autistic, and their collaboration on this film reduces the disability to mannerisms indistinguishable from ridicule.

The film turns away from this shocking opening to introduce its characters into a more realistic world. Music lives there in an overcrowded apartment with her loving grandmother Millie (Mary Kay Place). When Millie suddenly dies, she leaves the teenager in the care of Musik’s half-sister Zu (Kate Hudson, nominated for a Golden Globe for the role).

Zu is ill-equipped for the responsibility of watching music, but the attention of a handsome neighbor, Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.) gives her enough incentive to stay here. When Zu and Ebo imagine what a family could look like with music, in their fantasies they sing Sia songs specially composed for the film.

This is a bizarre film that parades confused ideas about care, imagination and disability with a pride that reads as vanity. It’s bold in the sense that it certainly takes some boldness to do.

Rated PG-13 for language, drug references, and brief violence. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. Rent or buy from Google Play, FandangoNow and other streaming platforms and pay-TV operators.



Robert Dunfee