I get it. I am not always all that aware of the music of today because I tend to thing everything should sound like Black Sabbath or The Rolling Stones around the time of Some Girls. I may be able to tell you all manner of arcane facts about the music of my youth — don’t get me started on the KLF or any associated bands — but most music today slips in one ear and out the other.
That said, I kind of liked what I heard from Sia. And I really enjoyed the fact that she remained anonymous so often, having actresses play her in videos and rarely showing her face.
So when she made an auteur project — a $16 million dollar movie written, directed and of course featuring her — I was pretty surprised. It’s one thing to not know how to read music, but all of this at once?
Sia said in a BBC interview, “For me, the process was basically, I work out the movie. I’ll act it out, I’ll have the dialogue already in my head… I can’t be bothered to learn Final Draft.”
Oh no, I thought. But part of me was like, oh yes. Because if there’s one thing better than a great movie, it’s a spectacular explosion of a film fueled by ego and hubris.
Some of the issues become apparent when you see how all of the place the process of creation was. The proagnist Zu was going to be Shia LaBeouf, then Jonah Hill, then after seeing Kate Hudson sing, she got the part. Speaking of the casting, most of it was done over social media. And then, after forty days of shooting, it took three years to edit this film.
Sia would tell Rolling Stone, “I couldn’t seem to find the right editor – someone who understood the magic I was trying to make happen.”
I would argue that this editor does not exist.
Maddie Ziegler may have starred in a series of Sia’s videos, but was she meant to play an autistic girl and go full blown like she does here? How about the fact that the movie shows a potentially dangerous physical restraint method called crushing? Or the fact that Leslie Odom Jr.’s character seemingly exists only to help white people get past their issues?
Also, there are flashing lights throughout this movie, so many of the autustic people who it could reach can’t watch it!
I know quite a few autustic people and not a single one of them are infants, despite this movie showing me they can be, as it veers between gritty drama and Bjork video. I take that back. Bjork makes good videos.
For everyone that ever made fun of The Apple or Can’t Stop the Music or Staying Alive or any number of horrible music-themed movies that I can’t help but love, I will use this as the example for what a truly bad movie is. Because man, I can remember songs from Xanadu and Sextette and I promise you that not a single moment of this film except for its endless montages of screaming headphone wearing children will stick with me. This movie has made me hate Sia, hate her music, hate children, hate communities and hate stages with floral arrangements like at the end of this movie.
Honestly, if you told me this was a right wing religious film, it would have made so much more sense to me. Actually, I’ve watched plenty of those and they’re way more entertaining than this.
Also: Sia plays herself and has this scheme where she’s using drug dealers to buy painkillers to send them to needy places in the world, which seems like the same kind of dumb idea as this movie, as if someone could have perhaps not been impulsive and tried to think of a better way to do things.
Somehow, this was nominated for both a Golden Globe for Best Picture and the Razzie Award for Worst Picture, which is the kind of thing only Pia Zadora has accomplished.
Man, this article feels like clubbing seals and shooting fish in a barrel. Realizing that doesn’t mean I’m going to start being nice though. That said, I wish I had seen this movie during its IMAX premiere because I thought no movie could be as loud and face destroying as watching the fecund Zack Snyder Watchmen from the front row and I feel that this is the movie that could erase that from my brain.
It’s like when you get a song stuck in your head and the only way to get it out is to start humming Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues.” Because then, you have “Smuggler’s Blues” stuck in your head. And that’s a losing proposition but one you can’t refuse. It’s the politics of contraband. It’s the smuggler’s blues.