The High Note is an enjoyable romantic dramedy with charming performances and some great tunes.
Dakota Johnson (The Peanut Butter Falcon) plays Maggie Sherwoode, a music aficionado who works as a loyal assistant to R&B legend Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross). Struggling to balance work with her personal appreciation for her boss’ career, Sherwoode aspires to be Ms. Davis’ next producer; even going as far as mixing Grace’s songs to eventually prove she has what it takes. Davis appreciates Maggie’s hutzpah, but only when it doesn’t get in the way of her spotlight.
Someone who isn’t thrilled about Maggie’s eagerness at all is Grace’s manager Jack (Ice Cube). Jack gives Maggie her first wake-up call with a stern talk about undermining his authority. It’s the best scene in the movie as the 21 Jump Street stars confidently spar with each other after Grace approves of Maggie’s remixes. The reality checks, however, become increasingly mean and condescending once Grace and her ego feel more threatened by Maggie’s earnestness. Understandably Tracee Ellis Ross’ character is a diva and this behaviour is to be expected from an enabled musician who has worked hard to pay her dues, but the role is at its best when Grace Davis is exhibiting affability towards her support. Without that warmth, the singer is a shrill cliché.
Maggie’s talk with Jack urges the aspiring producer to be on the lookout for her first client, who happens to be David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a young, good-looking folksy fella who specializes in light R&B. Harrison Jr. is very charismatic in this role that requires him to show off his amazing voice and showmanship. If it wasn’t for his incredible performance in last year’s Luce, The High Note’s David would’ve been his breakout role.
Even though a few factors prevent The High Note from sticking a clean landing, much like 2019’s frothy musical Teen Spirit, the film is an entertaining story about California dreamin’. Its consistent sense of humour pokes fun at the transparent, selfish qualities within the music industry, but the film is also careful not to discount the passion of those trying to succeed in this field. Not only does The High Note pull off this steady storytelling, but it resonates with full volume.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie