The Stream: The plot is predictable and unfocused.
The Big Screen: Tracee Ellis Ross is living her best diva life.
The Final Bill: A nice but bland time at the movies.-Trip Fontaine
Director: Nisha Ganatra
Writer: Flora Greeson
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr.,
Ice Cube | See full cast & crew
Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
Runtime: 1 hour 47 minutes
Platform: Available to Rent on Demand (Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Fandango, etc.)
This weekend, The High Note premieres at home on demand for rent through various services since most movie theaters remain closed. It’s a musical drama, which could lend itself to so many musical puns: The High Note sings. The High Note is out of tune. The High Note lacks harmony. The High Note rocks. They write themselves. I could go on and on. Is it worth the price of admission?
The High Note is that musical drama that comes out in May as counterprogramming from all those action blockbusters and superhero movies that crown the theaters in the summer. Dakota Johnson stars as Maggie, the harried personal assistant to the diva Grace Davis, who aspires to be a music producer. Grace Davis played by Tracee Ellis Ross is a superstar entering a new phase in her career wondering what to do next. The movie is directed by Nisha Ganatra, who directed last year’s Late Night, which had a similar plot of a young woman who’s working with a legendary female entertainer at a turning point in her career. The two central conflicts in The High Note are Maggie trying to segue from personal assistant to music producer while Grace is deciding whether to make an album of new music or settle into a Las Vegas residency. Unfortunately, The High Note is more interested in the more run-of-the-mill conflict facing Maggie rather than that interesting turning point in a woman over 40’s career.
Dakota Johnson is a likeable presence and she has good chemistry with Tracee Ellis Ross. Johnson and Ross’s scenes together are easy and feel true to the characters. The character of Maggie can be an annoying know-it-all, but she has good intentions. Tracee Ellis Ross is such a welcome presence. She looks great in every scene and she clearly knows her character. Grace isn’t some cliched malicious diva like Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada. She is a boss, and she knows it and acts accordingly. Ross gives her some nice vulnerability and plays it just right.
While there are good things about The High Note, it could have been more interesting. The plot is predictable but also unfocused. There are a couple of tangents that the film takes that feel unnecessary and pull from the central Maggie and Grace relationship. A potential romance and a twist distract rather than enhance the movie. If those aspects were integrated better, then maybe it would have come together more harmoniously. Ice Cube has a few good angry scenes, and June Diane Raphael adds some funny moments too. The classic music on the soundtrack is great, but the music that was written for the film is less successful. Also, there are some great shots of southern California throughout.
Ultimately, The High Note is a nice, passable movie. I would call it bland. I cannot say that it is worth $19.99 to rent on demand. If it were playing in a movie theater and you had a $5.00 matinee price, sure, go see it. Otherwise, grab a handful of popcorn when The High Note is airing for free on TV or some streaming service.