A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Encourages empathy, compassion. Acknowledges that not everyone can verbally express their thoughts and feelings. Demonstrates importance of strong family ties and relationships. Some controversial elements and moments when it comes to how people try to help Music when she's overwhelmed.
Positive Role Models
Zu is a survivor and steps up to be Music's guardian, even though she doesn't know what to do. Ebo is kind, friendly, selfless. Music is loved by neighbors, friends. She has a rich inner life full of singing and dancing. But she's played by a neurotypical actress, which doesn't contribute to positive representation in film, and has little agency in her story outside of her inner world. She's a disappointing example of a marginalized character whose sole purpose is to change another character for the better. Ebo's characterization as a saintly, almost magical Black man whose chief goal seems to be to help the White sisters down the hall is similarly troubling.
Violence & Scariness
Early on, Music's grandmother dies suddenly. Music is physically restrained to help calm her down, but the prone restraint is considered dangerous, controversial, and violent in the autism community. A teen's father is abusive; he pushes and hits his wife and, when the son tries to defend his mother, pushes him too, and he falls and starts bleeding from the head. A woman is hurt, has a bloody face/mouth. A drug distributor threatens that if a dealer can't sell/pay off debts, he'll have to "do something bad."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple flirts, embraces, kisses. A woman tries to kiss a man.
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Occasional language includes "smart ass," "s--t," "goddamn," and one "f--k."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A person recovering from alcohol dependency throws out all the liquor in an apartment. Discussion of a mother who was "a big junkie." A character is drunk. A character sells pills/drugs (several brands named) to adults. A drug user jokes about how much she needs the pills to deal with a domestic situation.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Music -- Australian singer-songwriter Sia's directorial debut -- is a musical about a nonverbal teen named Music (frequent Sia collaborator Maddie Ziegler) with autism who's placed in the care of her older sister, Zu (Kate Hudson). The movie has been criticized by autism activists for several reasons, including casting a neurotypical actor to play Music and portraying a controversial and dangerous form of restraint (the "prone restraint") -- something that reportedly should never be done outside of a therapeutic setting. There are also several conversations and transactions involving illegal drugs, domestic violence that leads to a serious injury, a death, and two bloody wounds. Language is infrequent but includes "s--t," "goddamn," "ass," and one "f--k." Families who watch the film may also want to check out documentaries about actual teens with autism. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Although its colorful, trippy song-and-dance numbers could delight fans of Sia and her talented cast, this movie is ultimately over-the-top and borderline offensive. Music has been loudly criticized for its depiction of prone restraint to subdue someone with autism: It's portrayed here as a common technique for handling Music but is actually dangerous, traumatic, and in some cases even lethal. There's also the fact that Ziegler, who's a neurotypical dancer-turned-actor, as well as Sia's self-described muse, was cast to play Music instead of a neurodiverse performer. But even worse is the way that Music has little agency in her own story outside of her reveries. She's yet another disappointing example of a marginalized character whose sole purpose is to change another character for the better -- in this case, Zu. Meanwhile, Ebo narrowly escapes another stereotype as a saintly, almost magical Black man whose chief goal seems to be to help the White sisters down the hall.
Hudson plays against type rather unconvincingly (even with the shaved head and wardrobe mostly consisting of sports bras and cut-off shorts). She does the peppy, life-of-the-party parts right but isn't believable as a gritty recovering addict who still sells drugs for quick cash. Ziegler is wonderful in the dance sequences, but her performance as Music is difficult to watch. There's a wrongness to the entire film that goes beyond the discussion of able-bodied or neurotypical actors taking away jobs from disabled or neurodiverse performers. For a much more insightful and poignant exploration of nonverbal autistic young adults, skip this and watch The Reason I Jump instead. Sia, no doubt, will survive the criticism of Music and go on to make another musical that's zany, colorful, and meaningful; this, however, is not it.
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Our Editors Recommend
Books with Characters on the Autism Spectrum
Movies with Characters Who Have Learning and Attention Issues and Developmental Disabilities
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