Music (2021)

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Music (2021)
What if the Tropic Thunder-exclusive movie Simple Jack was brought into reality, but as a musical, with a side of North tossed in? Wait, that's true now.
Genre: Musical
Directed By: Sia
Produced By: Sia
Vincent Landay
Written By: Sia
Dallas Clayton
Starring: Kate Hudson
Leslie Odom Jr
Maddie Ziegler
Brandon Soo Hoo
Photography: Color
Cinematography: Sebastian Wintero
Distributed By: HanWay Films (International)
Vertical Entertainment (United States)
Release Date: 12 February 2021
Runtime: 106 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $16 million

Music is a 2021 American musical drama film directed by singer-songwriter Sia. Sia and Dallas Clayton and stars Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr, and Maddie Ziegler co-wrote the film. Originally conceived in 2015 as a non-musical film, the film was subsequently re-conceived as a musical with a larger budget. The film was released on January 14, 2021 in Australia and February 12, 2021 in the United States. The film was panned by critics and bombed at the box office.


The film follows Zu Gamble (Kate Hudson), a former drug dealer who becomes the Guardian of her autistic younger sister Music (Maddie Ziegler). Zu soon meets Ebo Odom (Leslie Odom Jr), a boxer who teaches her how to care for Music. Throughout the film, musical dance sequences take place inside Music's mind, showing how she views the world.

Why It Can't Take It Higher

  1. The film's depiction of autism is exaggerated to the point of being stereotypical, with Music's tantrums, love of routine, and fixation on certain things not being representative of the entire autistic population.
    • The casting of Madison Ziegler as the titular character was very controversial, as Ziegler is neurotypical and she was presumably cast in the role because she is a frequent collaborator of Sia. Ziegler herself was worried about making fun of autistic people during filming, to the point where she even once broke down crying on set.
    • Before the movie's release, many people defended Ziegler's casting, pointing out that there was nothing wrong with a neurotypical person playing an autistic character as long as that character sensitively and respectfully depicted real-life autistic people. But, when the movie was released, it turned out that her portrayal of Music was about as far away from sensitive and respectful as possible, which has only caused the debate to become even more heated.
    • As if all that wasn't bad enough, Sia also spammed Twitter, criticizing people aggressively for criticizing her movie. Luckily, she quickly learned her lesson and deleted her Twitter account.
  2. The movie even depicts characters in blackface, with one example being Madison Ziegler in the "Oh Body" dance number. Also, the hand movements in that same number have been interpreted as motor tics of the fingers added to mock neurodivergent.
  3. The musical numbers that take place inside Music's mind, while impressive, are constantly out of nowhere and happen at inconvenient times. To some, they may feel like drug/alcohol trips.
    • Another problem with them is that they don't at all go with the serious subject matter that the film presents.
  4. Misleading Title: Despite being the titular character, Music is mostly portrayed as a supporting character, as the film instead focuses more on Zu and Ebo.
  5. The acting ranges from bland to annoying (except for Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr.).
    • Ziegler gives an exceptionally poor performance as Music, especially with her overuse of the open-mouth, but this is understandable given that she was forced to do this against her wishes.
  6. The story is disjointed and incredibly confusing, with clichés scattered throughout. In particular, the earlier scenes with Zu selling drugs to her clients feel like something from a completely different movie.
  7. Wasted potential: While it does have a good concept about a non-verbal, severely autistic character (and at the same time, to show the other form of autism realistically) the problems listed throughout the film, especially with the exaggerated depiction of autism, makes the concept poorly executed and wasted potential.
  8. Extremely poor characterization:
    • Ebo is depicted as a stereotypical and generic "Magical Negro", a person of color who helps the main character through the course of the plot and helps Zu control her autistic sister. Also, he mentions that he has AIDS, which goes nowhere and only serves as a racist stereotype.
    • Music is also a bad character, as she is just a generic bratty teenager whose characterization amounts to an amalgamation of various autistic stereotypes without a personality of any kind. She also never feels grief or sadness, is self-sufficient enough to brush her teeth and dress without explanation, always sees the world as a bed of roses and every other character respects her at first sight, making her a Mary Sue. Not to mention that she is objectified throughout the movie. In addition, her characterization drew comparisons to a school bully making fun of an autistic person. Ultimately, she only appears in the movie as a plot device and an obstacle Zu and Ebo have to overcome.
    • Felix only serves as a token Asian character who does almost nothing to the plot other than being a background character and introducing Ebo's role as a boxing coach who unwittingly gets killed when trying to stop his father in an altercation and gets sent to Heaven in a rickshaw in one of the musical sequences.
  9. Sia's cameo in the film is completely random and just a way to self-promote.
  10. The movie encourages the ableist concept of performing restraints on stressed or overwhelmed individuals with ASD.
    • In addition, the methods used to deal with autistic meltdowns within two scenes are inaccurate and dangerous. In the first restraint scene where Ebo teaches Zu how to restrain Music, he performs a supine restraint; picking up and pinning her down until she stops struggling whilst daring to claim that he's "crushing her with his love" and in the other one, Zu performs a face-down prone restraint on Music, after remembering Ebo's teachings. In real life, such methods could potentially kill the person from asphyxia. Not helping matters is that the movie was released a year after the George Floyd incident that caused racial and political protests throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and many other countries around the world, where he was placed in a chokehold until his death, calling for the disuse of such methods that can asphyxiate the victim. Even if they didn't delay the film's release, it was still released after that incident and the movie would have received a worse reception if it had been released on its original release date around October 2020, as protests were still going on during that time.
  11. Little to no story, as half of the movie is littered with musical sequences that don't even advance the plot.
    • Unlike other musical films like Hamilton, which advance the plot with their rich storytelling songs, this film hinders its plot and if one were to take all of the sequences out, it doesn't affect any of its stories. This is because it originally was not even supposed to be a musical, but it became one midway into development.
  12. Sia was never good at directing.
    • Before she directed this film, she claimed that she was "pretty good" at directing and "felt a little bit braver".
  13. The cinematography is completely terrible, relying heavily on high contrast and exposure.
  14. As expected with how this movie was received by critics and audiences, it pretty much sealed Sia’s fate as a bad director.
    • She even dared to defend the movie and couldn't take any criticism from anyone on social media. What makes this worse is that she even accused a person with autism of being a "bad actor" on Twitter. Even after the movie's release, Sia was still snarky and condescending towards the disabled and neurodivergent community as a result of the bitter aftertaste left by the movie.
    • Not helping is that Sia forced Ziegler to play this role against her own will, meaning that Sia mentally and emotionally abused her and made her do the said role against her wishes. And by the way, this is considered grooming!
    • Sia also apologized for the scenes with Music in a prone restraint and promised to remove them and add a disclaimer about the dangers of restraints, but as of this writing, these scenes were never removed in any release nor has a disclaimer been added, making her a liar as well.
  15. It contains sensory overload, is too loud, and has an excessive amount of strobe effects, making it even more unwatchable for people with not just autism but also other forms of neurodiversity than it already is, on top of the overly bright exposure and contrast.
  16. Every restraint scene in this movie is not only downright distressing and very insulting to the disability community but doing this to anyone, let alone autistic people can actually kill them. The characters pinning down Music can also be reminiscent of how George Floyd died, which makes this even more controversial than it already is.
  17. Abysmal soundtrack that tries way too hard to be artistic, but is just bizarre and obnoxious.
  18. The other serious subjects in the film, which consist of drugs, death, and divorce are also executed poorly and also have less focus.
  19. It is clear throughout the film that none of the writers or Sia herself did any autism research.
  20. Unlike Rent, which understood its serious subjects at its core, this film has no real understanding of autism.
  21. Extremely awful pacing.
  22. The film also comes off as emotionally manipulating and kind of infuriating to most people.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The musical numbers, while random and idiotic, are well-choreographed.
  2. Good acting from Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. (who later portrayed Victor Fielding in The Exorcist: Believer), as well as Brandon Soo Hoo (who portrayed Tran in Tropic Thunder) in a supporting role as Tanner, despite those actors being completely wasted.
  3. Zu and Tanner are both likable and tolerable characters.
  4. The film does have a very unique concept, though it was miserably executed.
  5. The posters look nice.
  6. The filmmakers at least meant well.
  7. As mentioned above, this is understandable given that Maddie was forced to act in the film against her wishes.



The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from both critics and audiences. Rotten Tomatoes, 9% of 45 reviews from critics for Music are positive, with an average rating of 3.7/10. The website's critics' consensus reads, "Offensive in its depiction of autism—and painfully misguided in essentially every respect—Music is a vanity project that begs to be turned down." Meanwhile, Meanwhile, Metacritic, which assigned the film a weighted average score of 23 out of 100 based on 18 critics, the film received "generally unfavorable reviews." Despite this, the film was nominated for two Golden Globes, both of which it lost. The show's presenters Tina Fey and Amy Poehler called the film an "international floparooni" and "Twitter is saying it's the most offensive casting since Kate Hudson was the Weight Watchers spokesperson" in response to Ziegler playing an autistic person.

WatchMojo listed this film as #1 for worst movies of 2021. Brad Jones, best known as the Cinema Snob, named this film his #10 worst movie of 2021.

Awards and Nominations

  • Music was nominated for four Razzies, winning three of them, for Worst Actress (Kate Hudson), Worst Supporting Actress (Maddie Ziegler), and Worst Director (Sia). It lost out to Absolute Proof in the Worst Picture category.


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