Film Review – The High Note

The High Note (M)

Directed by: Nisha Ganatra

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Aspiring music producer Maggie Sherwoode is paying her dues as the overworked assistant to singing superstar Grace Davis, who is successfully touring but hasn’t released new music in a decade.

Grace’s next career move is up in the air – her long-time manager Jack (Ice Cube) and record label executives urge her to settle with a cushy Las Vegas residency, but she wants to release a new album.

Meanwhile, Grace meets talented but unsigned musician David Cliff (Kelvin Harrison Jr), fibs about her credentials to convince him to let her produce his first album and the two spark a relationship.

Dakota is reliably cute, Ellis Ross is commanding and June Diane Raphael almost steals it as Grace’s ditsy staffer Gail, but The High Note’s script is more interested in trotting out taking a rom-com tropes than exploring an under-told story.

This could have been a juicy, relevant and timely exploration of the plight of a relevant black middle aged music star who’s career and creativity is being stifled by younger white male studio executives.

The High Note merely hints at it with a heartbreaking monologue from Grace (sensationally delivered by Ellis Ross) where she lays it all out for Maggie, Cliff’s Notes style.

But instead of spending more time fleshing this out, we get a meet-cute between Maggie and David and a love story that is perfectly serviceable, but by far the least interesting avenue this film could have taken.

Props where they’re due – there is a knockout twist towards the end that you won’t see coming and the songs are top class efforts (something you don’t often get in films about pop music).

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