Tuesday, February 23, 2021

return to planet ape!

Saturday, February 13, 2021


Originally posted over on my fairly serious autism blog I thought I'd share it here too.

Enjoy, if that's the right word.

"Look at the dog!"

Music (2021).

Dir: Sia (Oh yes and produced and written by her too...are there any ends to her talents?)

Cast: Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Maddie Ziegler, Héctor Elizondo and, bizarrely, Henry Rollins. There are actually loads of other folk but frankly I can't be arsed listing them.

Zu: I'm actually learning how to love, because I love her.

Welcome to Siaville USA, a bizarro studio-bound multicoloured, multi-cultural mainstreet that only exists in 80s Beneton ads and in Children's Television Workshop Productions.

It's here that we meet Music (classic Stockholm Syndrome victim Ziegler) the jittery, juddery, rubber-faced puppet made flesh who will be our main character... um no...our reason for watching?...nah, hang on, I've got it...who will be our inspirational porn prop for the next 90 odd minutes.


Interestingly Sia chooses a fairly unique way to introduce Music to the audience - and that's with a huge crotch level (and in no way uncomfortable) close-up of her underwear.

scarily this wont be the last time a female characters underpants take centre stage in this film.

Every need, said no-one ever.

And with that it's time for a modern dance interpretation of 'the autism' featuring some oh so spectrum friendly strobe lights, editing that even George Lucas would balk at for being too fast and a group of children dressed as what looks like furry lemons as a song about your body not controlling you and your mind setting you free (because stims are bad everyone!) plays way too loudly on the soundtrack.

And all while Maddie is forced into a massive piss yellow egg suit topped off with a pair of headphones which appear to be fashioned from a human scalp all the while blinking and forcing her tongue into her bottom lip in a style not unfamiliar to British school kids during the 70s who were mocking Joey Deacon from Blue Peter.

Yes it's seriously that uncomfortable.

I mean just look at this:

and this:

Being the uber-talented child star she is tho' (as opposed to being a fairly competent young dancer being exploited by a much older predatory female whose star power allows her to indulge in a relationship with a child that you or I would be, if not arrested at least lectured about) Maddie manages to do all this whilst stiffly jerking about in the manner of a Thunderbirds puppet being electrocuted.

Because autism.

On a brighter note the opening 8 minutes is about as insensitive and offensive as the movie gets (save a couple of scenes later that we'll get round to), it almost reminded me of the climax of The Producers by this point and I'd not be being honest if I didn't admit that (a small) part of me was hoping the film would continue in this manner, pushing the 'how offended can you get?' button like a sugared up child shouting "ARSE!" at the babysitter.

Alas it wasn't to be tho', for no sooner has Music gone for her daily walk around the neighbourhood (in order to showcase how caring and sharing the community is to her) than her gran - and sole carer - drops dead after a stroke.

Not to be outdone by Maddie, Mary Kay Place does a really interesting - and fairly sexy it has to be said - face thing as she hits the kitchen floor so it's not all bad.

Music returns home, totally ignoring the corpse on the floor and only getting upset when her food doesn't turn up later that afternoon.

Because of course she would.

Enter grumpy building inspector, neighbour and friend of Music, George (Elizondo, whose alimony bill must be fucking huge to appear here) who after assessing the situation calls the police.

I must admit that for a few seconds here I thought the film might perk up a wee bit, due to a sequence where the ambulance crew remove grannies body from the apartment.

You see as Music and George watch the body bag being wheeled out, everything goes a bit Twin Peaks - or is it Pee Wee's Big Adventure - I haven't decided yet as the whole hallway turns intestine pink, the angles change and Music is spotlit as grannie pops up out of the bag wearing what looks like clown make-up.

"Sometimes my arms bend back...."

Unfortunately everything quickly goes back to normal and we're denied a touching/moving/creepy dead relative/autism musical mash-up because it's time to introduce some real people to the story as somehow Sia seems to have realised that it's fairly hard to move a plot along if your main character does nowt but gurn, so George calls Music's estranged sister Kazu (no, seriously) - played with grumpy browed indifference by Hudson - because although the entire community seem to love and respect Music as she teeters around the street dribbling and gurning at folk, it'd be a totally different situation to have her living in their house so fuck that, a pissheaded, drug dealer with no experience can have her instead.

Don't worry tho' because Sia hasn't forgotten the most important character trait we need to know about her.

Yup, what underwear she's wearing.

It's Calvin Klein (who I assume have a sponsorship deal with the studio, either that or Sia has another female-based obsession) in case you're wondering - we get to see them at least a dozen times, we're even treated to a full screen close-up of the crotch pocket Zu keeps her money in.

You're welcome.

Anyway, Zu rocks up with her bad girl attitude and, in a scene so humorous I was laughing for oooh seconds afterwards, proceeds to phone social services to see if they do 'pick ups' before going to sleep in her grandmothers still warm bed.

Oh. My. Sides.

Kate Hudson's arse yesterday.

As morning breaks the totally self centred Zu starts the day by managing to fuck up Music's breakfast ("Make eggs! Make Eggs!" she keeps shouting in, it must be said a voice that's a bloody good approximation of James Hong in Big Trouble In Little China) and refuses to braid her hair causing a massive meltdown that can only be stopped when a huge 'Mystic African' neighbour Ebo (Odom Jr. who you can actually see slowly begin to realise the cinematic car crash he's in during the films running time, it's amazing - and quite sad - to watch an actor go from wide eyed glee to dead-eyed indifference during the course of a movie) bursts in, grabs Music and proceeds to lie on top of her in order (in his words) to "Crush her with love".

Even taking away the obvious problems with prone restraint, the image of an adult male overpowering a female child should have raised some concerns on it's own but no, it's fine, Zu just accepts this and the three of them go out for a walk in order for Ebo to tell Zu how gifted and special Music is or something.

To be honest I'd sneaked off for a fag at this point.Which is odd as I don't smoke.

I'm actually quite glad I did tho' as it's during this bit that Ebo says that he quite likes autistic folk because his village used to kill them for being 'cursed'.


But it's not about the autistic folk, it's about the carers (kids) so now we can discover the various plights of everyone else in the cast, from Ebo, who has been dumped by his wife for his brother (plus he has an 'illness'...more later) and who now spends his time teaching boxing to the local kids, one of which is a clumsy Korean kid who spends his nights giving Music a dog-based shadow show from across the street in order to forget the daily beatings his dad dishes out to him and his mum.

Obviously this act of kindness and empathy toward Music isn't enough on it's own so we're subjected to a musical number that culminates in the pair of them cavorting down a birth canal whilst dressed as the Chucklehounds.

But I digress.

A musical birth canal yesterday.

Luckily for us this chat gives Zu a chance to explain that she's not actually a bad drugs dealer as she only deals to posh people who are stressed at looking after elderly parents or kids with HIV who can't afford their medicine.

No seriously, even her dealer is lovely and kind.

So with that out of the way it's totally fine for Zu to take Music out with her on her drug mule type adventures, especially when those adventures feature Zu delivering a consignment of pain killers to a pop star who, with no thoughts of her own well being, plans to distribute them to the people of Haiti after a hurricane.

Can you guess who plays this benevolent, saint like figure?

She'll need more than a lick of emulsion to hide from us.

Yep, that'll be our savior and benefactor Sia in a not so much blink and miss it cameo but more of a "LOOK AT ME!!!! LOOK AT ME!!!!!" spoiled brat at a birthday party turn.

Cue more singing and stimming as Music imagines herself being anything other than autistic.

Luckily by this point everyone else has taken to pulling the same faces as Maddie whilst performing so now it just looks like an approximation of early silent movie but with added primary colours and shit songs obviously.

So nothing at all like it really.


But let's be honest if none of these f*ckers are putting the effort in why should I?

From this point in Sia piles on the cliches as if her life - tho' luckily not her career - depended on it.

But not before another amusing meltdown scene that appears to be there only so Ebo can make a joke about not being comfortable with jumping on a "small white girl" in the park in case he gets shot.

Tho' bursting into her house and doing it in private is OK.

And they say we lack social skills.

Turns out that one of the folk getting the HIV drug from her supplier is Ebo, the kid that's rubbish at boxing gets murdered by his dad and after losing her drugs supply/cash/laptop in a park after Music is stung by a bee (in a sequence I'd love to think was a mash-up tribute to Argento's Phenomena via Bee Movie) hits the bottle and after clumsily trying to shag Ebo, goes out on a huge Mean Streets inspired piss up culminating in a song and dance featuring interpretive vomiting and Hudson crawling about with a huge plushie loveheart on her back as the lyrics talk about the burden of love.

Seriously Legs And Co. have nothing on the choreography on show here.

The next morning, with her nose and spirit broken (tho' not as much as the audiences) and with no money to pay the rent, Zu decides it'd be best if she put Music in an institute....

Will Zu go thru' with her plan?

Will Ebo swallow his hurt pride and be best man for his brother and deliver a speech that doesn't actually start with "In my village in Africa..." for once?

Will Maddie Ziegler ever be able to stop grimacing once the cameras have stop rolling?

And will Sia swap her wigs for a full face covering when she goes out in public from now on?

Where do you start with a film like Music?

I've covered it here before but it's worth going over it again now the film has finally been released.

And for those of you that can't be arsed clicking on loads of links obviously.

The warning signs were there from the start, almost as soon as the (not autistic) horror-haired songstress Sia Kate Isobelle Furler - or Sia as the kids cry her - announced that she'd teamed up with (not autistic) children's writer - and inspirational Instagrammer Dallas Clayton to make a heart warming musical film quoted as being a "love letter to caregivers and People With Special Abilities",

From her Power of Women conversation for Variety magazine where she said this about using a non-verbal character in the role:

"...There's this person who can't speak, she might as well be an inanimate object like a wig..."

To making up utter shite like this:

"They’re called special abilities now not special needs."

You could tell that the whole sorry affair was a total shit storm waiting to happen and things only got worse after the first trailer dropped and the autistic community began to (politely to begin with) ask Sia what the hell she was thinking.

Her responses were interesting to say the least:

Before she took a leaf out of William Shatner's book and just set her fans loose on anyone who dared question their queen and finally storming off Twitter in a huff.

Albeit with two Golden Globe nominations.

But now the film is here and we can finally judge it on its own merits - somewhat - removed from the hype and controversy by watching it at home.

And to be honest it's everything we were worried it would be.

The 'autistic' acting is scarily way more offensive than I thought it was possible to imagine (and anyone who knows my film taste knows that I don't have any), as a friend said the random, overblown tics and twitches are reminiscent of when Donald Trump mimicked New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski, and this is made all the worse by the fact that Sia has persuaded a child that this is OK, that this is somehow fine.

I've actually come away from the film feeling quite bad for Ziegler, the more you read into it - and her background - the more it comes across like she's a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.

But more disturbing is the fact that there are way too many crotch-level shots of Maddie Ziegler in her underwear.

Imagine a male director in his late 30s, early 40s being so obsessed with a child like this, seriously I feel like staging an intervention but obviously I'd need to be wearing a massive furry suit and backed by some middle of the road pop pap but the thoughts there.

Spot the difference.

Luckily after the wall to wall autistic parody that makes up the movies opening 15 minutes things settle down when they get bored with Music because she's obviously not as interesting as Zu plus I reckon Sia hadn't realised it's hard to move a plot along if your main character does nowt but gurn and from then on in the movie kinda drunkenly lurches from offensive to creepy to cliche-sodden via a smugness not usually seen outside telethons and after about 40 minutes you realise the whole sorry endeavor is actually utter unimaginative shite and start to notice things like the wallpaper and the back of your eyelids.

It's not even a good drama as there are absolutely no consequences to anything that happens:

Gran dies, that's OK, Zu will step in.

She's on parole for breaking and entering?

Nah she'll be fine looking after a vulnerable child!

Oh she's a drug runner?

It's OK, it's good drugs!

Boy murdered by his dad in a fit of rage?

It's OK because he said his wife made him do it and the son's story arc was spent at that point.

And even then absolutely none of it makes any narrative sense and even when it does Sia manages to fudge whatever feelings we were meant to get from the scene.

Take for example the aforementioned child killing (I can't believe I'm even typing that), at the films beginning the boy in question - as noted earlier - entertains Music with dog-based shadow play across the street, minus the bizarro dance number and the shmaltz the scene could be fairly touching, especially as when the police turn up at his house after his death Music is awoken by the flashing police lights and not the shadow dogs.

This could have been a really sad, heartfelt moment but Sia, stripped of a chance to throw in a song or dance just lets it slide as if she has no idea what to do, and if the writer/director can't connect to the characters how the hell are we supposed to?

Still not OK.

Same goes with the whole drug dealing plot - from the way it's written and portrayed it's almost as if Sia thinks that every drug boss on the planet is in it for the good of humanity, only dealing to those that need it- which says more about Sia than a dozen disability porn projects ever will.

To be honest it's really difficult to figure out where and how to end a review like this as the after-effects are probably going to be felt around the autistic community for months to come but then, hopefully the narrative regarding inspirational vanity projects like this might change.

And for those of you who were wondering if Sia did, in fact cut the prone restraint scenes as promised and add a disclaimer to the films opening?

Like Hell she did.

But don't worry because although she's probably caused countless damage and hurt to a fair number of autistic folk at least she didn't kick any dogs.