Review: The High Note
The High Note is like a cover of a familiar song that still slaps. It is a story that has been told before with plenty of predictable moments like a familiar chorus. And yet the film entertains thanks to its respect and love for the music it explores and the chemistry between its characters.
Dakota Johnson plays Maggie Sherwood, assistant to music legend Grave Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross). Maggie wants to produce and she has the ear for it but Grace and the rest of the music industry doesn't make it easy to jump from assistant to music producer. One day she meets David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) as he performs in front of a grocery story. He has raw talent and she sees a chance to shine and apply her real talents. The two also have an obvious attraction.
The High Note combines elements of The Devil Wears Prada, A Star is Born and a standard romantic comedy into something that works most of the time. Johnson and Harrison Jr. have believable chemistry. They sell the routine romance plot via their charm together. Ross is good as Grace, channeling the most diva elements of her mother Diana Ross.
Some things about The High Note do not work, largely because they are just underdeveloped. Grace is an aging legend who hasn't released new music in a while. The film touches on her struggle as a black woman in the music career who is getting older but never really does much more than bring it up. It could have been interesting. The relationship between her and her manager (Ice Cube) could have added more substance to the film. The relationship between Grace and Maggie never really materializes fully as they are both women trying to succeed in the industry.
One of the pleasures of the film is that everyone does their own singing. Ross and Harrison Jr. are very talented and the original songs let them shine. This adds authenticity to some of the film's best moments in the studio as Maggie and David work together.
The High Note is an entertaining, familiar film that gets the music right. It bites off a bit more than it can deal with but the leads all shine in their roles.