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Sia’s New Film Labelled An ‘Atrocity’ With ‘Ill-Judged’ Depiction Of Autistic Character

by : Emily Brown on : 11 Feb 2021 17:07
Sia's New Film Labelled An 'Atrocity' For Its Depiction Of Disabled CharacterPA Images/HanWay Films/Vertical Entertainment

Sia’s new film Music has been described as an ‘atrocity’, and has been criticised for its depiction of the autistic lead character. 

The musical has not yet been released to the public, but critics who got an early viewing of the film have not held back in their reviews.

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The film follows Music – played by Maddie Ziegler – as she falls into the care of her newly sober half-sister, Zu, portrayed by Kate Hudson.

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Music has picked up a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, but has already been the subject of a wealth of criticism.

Sia, who directed the film, first came under fire for her decision not to cast an autistic actor to play Music. Further objections then came following the reveal of scenes that showed Music being restrained as a means to calm her down, with autism advocates condemning the portrayal of the situation.

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Sia apologised for the scenes and assured that they would be removed ‘from all future printings’, according to USA Today. She deleted her Twitter account after being hit with criticism, and said that she’d ‘listened to the wrong people’ and not done enough ‘thorough’, ‘wide’ research.

The film is set to be released on February 15, but many existing reviews are less than encouraging. Music has a score of just 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, where one critic described it as a ‘disaster of epic, mind-boggling, proportions’.

Leslie Felperin, film reviewer for The Hollywood Reporter, wrote:

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While it has a few incidental felicities to admire, by and large Music is a sentimental atrocity so cringe-inducing it should come with an advisory warning for anyone with preexisting shoulder or back injuries.

Felperin went on to criticise the depiction of Music in the film, writing that the film was more about her sister Zu than herself.

She continued, ‘[Zu is] the one who has the most prominent and varied narrative arc, and who learns the true meaning of love and family thanks to the suffering experienced by the tragic disabled person as well as the people of color around her.’

Maddie Ziegler in MusicHanWay Films
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It must be said, however, that the film has received praise for certain aspects, with HeyUGuys’s Alex Clement noting that while she would have preferred to see Music played by someone with autism, Ziegler did a good job in the film.

Clement wrote, ‘I grew to love Maddie and applaud her acting because this must’ve been such a challenge for her, as it was up to her to give justice to the character without seeming to mock the autistic community.’

Music, which marks Sia’s directorial debut, will be available to watch on Apple TV, Vudu and Fandango.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Film and TV, Autism, Music, Now, Sia

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USA Today
  1. USA Today

    Critics call Sia's film 'Music' a 'sentimental atrocity' with 'so, so many bad' decisions