Monday, May 25, 2020

Review: The High Note

Release date: May 29, 2020
Running time: 111 minutes
Starring:  Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ice Cube

The High Note is a story about Maggie (Johnson), an assistant to superstar Grace Davis (Ross).  Grace has not released a new album in 10 years, and is living off the fame and success of her record setting career.  Maggie runs Grace's life, but she has recently discovered that she wants to do so much more, while still being close to the superstar she grew up idolizing.  However, this desire to strike out on her own and produce music leads to conflicts with Grace's manager (Ice Cube) and Maggie's potential clients (Harrison Jr.).  

The High Note is a feel good musical drama with a lot of heart and soul.  Maggie has a real love for classic music and a simpler style where the artist, not the accompaniment, shines through.  And Johnson does a really good job as Maggie, bringing a convincing amount of musical knowledge and perfectly balancing the conflicted character who loves her job but wants much more.  Ross is fantastic as Grace Davis, who is both a loving friend and fearsome boss at the same time.  Grace Davis goes through so many mood swings and Ross is perfectly believable in all of them.  Harrison Jr. and Ice Cube are both phenomenally cast as well, but the real stars of this picture are the leading ladies.  They put on powerful, fun, and heartfelt performances that really make you invested in the characters.  

And a movie about music should definitely have a fantastic soundtrack, and the High Note does not disappoint.  It has a nice blend of new tracks and classic songs.  The Grace Davis songs are so entertaining that I listened through the credits (twice) just because I loved hearing them.  And as you would expect for a movie set in the entertainment industry, the story itself is entertaining.  The film has enough ups and downs to keep you guessing what happens next.  The story has enough complexity and surprises that it will keep you engaged; this film is far from a cookie cutter romantic drama.  The writing is fun and entertaining, and pours on the heart when needed.  And the film, despite being set in modern times, has plenty of classic callbacks to reflect Grace Davis's career.  There are nice touches like MTV VMA awards, classic shows that Grace appeared on, and other little references that evoke the music history depicted in the film.  The High Note is just an all around feel good movie at a time when we desperately need things like this.  But it also highlights someone who pushes for their dreams despite the consequences, another needed lesson.

The High Note is a phenomenal feel good musical drama with fantastic characters, a story with plenty of surprises, and a soulful, wonderful soundtrack that will stay in your head long after the credits roll.

Watch it.
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