by Kyle Arango
Throughout this entire pandemic with movies originally scheduled for theaters going to streaming, we have not had one really good film. Trolls: World Tour was fine, but stuff like The Lovebirds, Scoob!, and Capone are all various degrees of terrible. So now with The High Note, a film I had never heard of until I got the screener, I did not have high hopes. I am very happy to report that this film is the first truly good film to come out since we all went home. Full of heart and a compelling story, The High Note hits all the right beats to make you feel good while stuck at home.
In The High Note we follow Maggie (Dakota Johnson) who is an assistant to an aging musician Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) but has bigger aspirations to be a music producer. When a tough decision presents itself to Grace, she begins to mistreat those around her and pushes Maggie away where she meets David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a young musician on the brink of greatness. Maggie must decide whether to stay put as an overworked assistant or pursue her dreams and bring David to the next level. I love these movies that take us into the inner workings of the music industry and the day to day decisions they make. What works the best is when they focus on an up and comer and their journey towards making it. Films like A Star is Born, Sing Street, and Begin Again all come to mind that have executed this formula well. Now you can add The High Note to the list. This film just has that warm, inviting feeling to it that sucks you in with a journey from a character any of us could be and gives the audience a fantasy they feel they could achieve.
Something that makes this film work so well is the music. When a film has good, original music, it is hard to dislike because all they have to do is crank that tune at the right moment and most flaws are forgiven. In this film we have two different fictional artists who have songs played throughout. They both have a smooth, modern R and B style that you find yourself humming to long after the film is over and hoping to hear again once it goes away.
The real success for The High Note comes from its talent involved. Dakota Johnson is someone I have always been intrigued by as an actress but have never really understood what people see in her. After this film, I get it. Dakota is the perfect actress to be warm and relatable and she carries such an innocent personality that you cannot help but root for her. You want to give her a hug in her tough moments because she brings the type of style that you cannot help but fall in love with. Kelvin Harrison Jr. in another way is a star. This guy already has better acting chops than people who have been around longer than him and has as much charisma as a young Will Smith. In three films early in his career, he has impressed the hell out of me and only adds to it in this film. Tracee Ellis Ross on the other hand plays a character that annoys you, but you are supposed to despise her. She is a diva superstar who has lost touch with normalcy and Ross makes that the perfect amount of annoying which allows us to enjoy Dakota Johnson that much more.
The High Note isn’t a perfect film, but it is the perfect film for now where we need something to lift our spirits and put a smile on our faces. The ending takes a big swing and doesn’t quite land on its feet, but it does enough to take you across the finish line. The cast is terrific and director Nisha Ganatra is one we need to watch to see what she does next and is someone we should all be excite about. If you want a good new release worth the price you’d pay at a theater, The High Note is the first to truly earn that honor.
The Verdict: 4/5 Stars