By any measure, Music, the cinematic debut of Adelaide pop star Sia Furler, is a confounding big-screen disaster, a film so clumsy and ill-conceived that a viewer's main takeaway is: "Huh, directing movies must be harder than it looks?" In the end, that just might work in its favour.

As its US release next month awaits ominously, the film already looks set to enter cultdom, the pantheon of movies so bizarrely inept they're a must-watch. It's a hall of fame that includes such inverted triumphs as Tommy Wiseau's The Room (2003), the Oscar bait-turned-digital-laughing stock Cats (2019), and perhaps Music's closest kin in terms of its mawkishness and weird offensiveness, the internet favourite Tiptoes (2003), a rom-com in which Oscar winner Gary Oldman, on his knees, plays the dwarf brother of a pre-McConaissance Matthew McConaughey.

Maddie Ziegler and Kate Hudson in a scene from Music.Credit:Merrick Morton

Co-written and directed by Sia with a $US16 million budget, Music opened in Australian theatres last Thursday to a critical drubbing. The film currently rates a sour 29 per cent on reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, while this masthead’s critic Jake Wilson labelled it a “baffling fiasco”.

Before its release the film had already sparked controversy in having its severely autistic protagonist played by the neurotypical actress and dancer Maddie Ziegler, the young muse of Sia's music videos. It's a cringey Hollywood tendency that was already spoofed over a decade ago by Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder but, at a time when conversations about the representation of marginalised communities on screen have reached fever pitch, now seems especially tone-deaf.

And yet, that's not even half the story. The film also includes a romantic subplot with a gotcha reveal completely lacking in sensitivity, and another cliched subplot – involving an Asian boy with an overbearing father who wants him to be a boxer when the kid just wants to dance – that barely intersects with the main protagonists.

Kate Hudson in one of Music’s many musical fantasy breaks.

There's also a hammy director's cameo, countless disruptions into music video fantasy, and an ending that plays like Hollywood irony. So why can't I stop thinking about it?

For starters, there's a breakdown in communication that's eye-opening. There's a language to filmmaking that even the most casual filmgoer has come to understand – things like establishing shots, resolved plotlines, naturalistic performances (the main reason why someone like Nicolas Cage is an online meme).

When a film eschews such conventions, it's jarring. But it can also make a film more inherently interesting because, even if unintentionally, it's challenging Hollywood orthodoxy, says Dr Bruce Isaacs, associate professor in film studies at the University of Sydney.

"American cinema is essentially a pretty conservative medium; it's so closely related to predictable process that if something works it's very hard to challenge that," he says.

"Take something like Marvel films: they're 'good' movies, polished, exceptionally well-made and well-acted, and no one does production value like Hollywood can, but they are so much part of a repetitive program. I would much rather someone says, 'There's this new movie that's come out and nobody knows what to make of it, let's go see it.' That's so much more interesting."

Tommy Wiseau, centre, directed, produced and starred in 2003’s The Room. It bombed but went on to become a cult hit, spawning James Franco’s 2017 movie The Disaster Artist.

Broadcaster and comedian Alexei Toliopoulos, who hosts popular film podcasts Finding Desperado and Total Reboot, says there's also a feeling among audiences that, with over a hundred years of cinema as an example, such 'bad' films almost shouldn't exist.

"When there's that breakdown in the language of film, it becomes uncanny. It's like this communal experience of going, 'Hang on, I'm smarter than this and I know there's something wrong here.' It's like being in together on a cosmic joke," he says.

"With films like The Room and Tiptoes, there's an auteurist aspect too because they have such a sincere and specific voice communicating to you, like, in a scream. You end up with something completely unique, almost like outsider art. It feels like a transmission from another world."

These films are often endearing failures, says Toliopoulos, where the director's confidence, bravado or means can't keep up with their vision. But even such "outright bad" movies can elicit a personal response. He recalls watching Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010), a cult favourite for its homespun special effects and stilted action. The film was written, directed and produced by James Nguyen, a Vietnamese filmmaker who'd migrated to America at a young age, and is filled with his idiosyncratic quirks.

"It moved me, even though it's completely ridiculous and silly, because it's such a singular experience and it's so from his perspective," Toliopoulos says.

"It's all about things he cares about, to the point the main character has the same kind of crappy IT sales job he has in real life; all the characters, while being white Americans who look like they could be in Hollywood movies, speak in broken English because he's written the screenplay in his voice, literally; and it has this strong message about environmental issues, which is something he cares so deeply about. I kind of started crying thinking this man has put so much of his essence and being and spirituality into this movie, and it's really just a weird knock-off of The Birds made for, like, $40."

Isaacs also warns against the tendency to even think of films in terms of being, as one US reviewer recently described Ron Howard's new Netflix bomb Hillbilly Elegy, "objectively" bad.

"We all got given a licence in the '70s, '80s, and '90s to challenge the whole hierarchy of high art and low art and to challenge what's considered the orthodox, or 'correct', artistic position. We already fought that battle and won," he says.

Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy, released late last year, also copped a critical drubbing. Credit:AP

"I have a wonderful collection of [British production company] Hammer horror BluRays at home, and when those movies came out they were considered B-grade schlock horror; no one took them seriously. So now we return to those and think, 'Well, I want to reassess it, because can I find some elements in it that are artistically valuable or interesting?', and of course there is.

"That's why I think Rotten Tomatoes means nothing," Isaacs adds. "In terms of taking movies seriously, aggregate criticism has become a real issue. Because then what escapes is the weird stuff, the idiosyncratic stuff, and that is incredibly unfortunate."

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