Part of the job of writing movies is to test stress tests for acquired wisdom. (Vis. Immortal Review by Colleague Nigel Andrews Cats.) However, sometimes this is covered by consensus. That’s what he proves Music, already the infamous film debut of the singer-songwriter star Sia. That part of her reputation survives. Several of her melodies appear in the film, all in the bright machine melancholy of the best modern pop. The film itself is a disaster, the fruit of many bad decisions and one spectacular pride.
Let’s deal with that first: Music is the name of an obvious heroine, a 16-year-old girl with severe autism. She is played by the neurotypical Maddie Ziegler, whose casting has caused a momentary alarm in the disability community. “Nothing about us without us” is a modern standard, and rightly so. But, still, it should be possible for a capable actor to play a disabled person with insight and sensitivity. These are not the features of this performance. The result is truly hard to watch – mimicry that looks like mockery. Yet the real mistake lies in a director whose lack of serious autism research became infamous long before the film came out and who screams from every scene. “Spring for Hitler” had nothing to do with it.
Honestly, the film is bad on many other levels as well. Not least is the fact that characters with autism exist at all – so it turns out – as props in scary stories about the self-discovery of their troubled older sisters. . . Luckily you can.
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