I’ll admit, seeing work, which is less than perfect, even excruciatingly bad is part of what it is to be a critic. Over my seven years of engaging with work as more than just an audience member, and with more than 2000 reviews published under my name, I can assure you that I have seen my fair share of the terrible and mundane.
But also, over this time, I have seen huge improvements and massive steps forward by the creative industries both here in Australia and the world over. Be it on stage or on screen or in galleries, the creative industries are changing and for the better, or so I thought. That was until a few weeks ago when I attend, with the intent of reviewing, the new film and directorial debut by Adelaide born Sia. Within the first 90 minutes of the film, all that hope and joy that I had, believing the creative industries were changing, dissipated until that hope was nothing more than a hot mess, frothing at the mouth, waiting for paramedics to take it out the back door to be carted off to a much-needed stay in rehab.
Yes Sia, we need to talk, for it was not just difficult, but impossible to pinpoint just what was the worst part of you losing your cinematic cherry. Much has been discussed about the lack of representation in a film, which is meant to centre on an autistic character, but unlike you I do not wish nor feel the need to speak over the voices of a minority I am not a part of.
So aside from the issues around representation, the film is problematic at best. In casting Maddie Ziegler as the films eponymous autistic character we see a display of Sia’s nepotism at its worst. If the Adelaide born artist wanted to make a movie directorial debut AND stay true to her roots, she might have wanted to stick to doing Snowtown The Musical, rather than speak over the voices of minority groups.
Kate Hudson is simply unbelievable in her role as a washed up alcoholic drug dealer, even with the quasi-dyke crew cut, but that might of just been down to the Calvin Klein crop tops she was sporting for most of the movie (seriously for someone so poor, how could she afford these?). The film also centres too much on this one character, telling the story through her perspective, and not as it should be through the eyes of Music – Maddie Ziegler’s character.
I honestly could not tell you how many gin and tonics I madly rushed to the bar to down during this film, but I certainly doubled my intake after hearing HIV referred to as AIDS, and not even historically. Sometime in the film’s second half, I felt like a marathon runner enduring this quagmire of insensitivity as I was downing gin like those runners down cups of Gatorade handed to them along the way.
If you can’t already tell, I loathed this film, and any respect or even admiration I held for the small-town girl who made it big in Hollywood is tarnished. This film is a breathtaking example of exactly what we should not aspire to, and I almost feel ashamed for giving it so much of my attention.
Maybe Sia, it’s not about us needing to talk, but more about you needing to shut up, and listen.