THE HIGH NOTE is just further proof that you can still make a movie that has been done before, with cliches galore, being mostly predictable, incorporating story beats either copied or completely ripped off of other things…but the pacing of the movie, the acting, the chemistry between the actors, and some original music can end up putting everything together into a very enjoyable, semi-new package. Or maybe my expectations were just really, really low? Doesn’t matter, either way I really enjoyed this film, and my wife who was going to do other things around the house, ended up sitting down and paid attention to the whole thing. This was yet another movie that was supposed to hit theaters early May, but due to the butt fucking phenomenon known as COVID-19, ended up being a premium $19.99 PVOD rental instead in late May. Cut to only a month and a week later, and this movie was available to OWN this week for only $14.99 (see: my patience is virtue quote in my previous review of Trolls World Tour). Yes, I could’ve waited for another 12 days for the rental to go down to $5 or $6, but I read some casual moviegoers reviews saying that the movie is much better than critics like me or grumpy old people were making it out to me, so I took the gamble and just purchased to own. I’m glad that I did, because even though the movie has about a billion familiar story beats with a story that has been done a countless variation of times, I enjoyed every minute of it and would probably keep watching it as sort of a ‘guilty pleasure’ type deal.
Also, the marketing of this movie was way off base. IMDB describes the film as “A superstar singer and her overworked personal assistant are presented with a choice that could alter the course of their respective careers,” and that’s how the trailers and tv spots sold the movie as, but that’s really describing only HALF of the movie’s 1 hr and 52 minute run time. Dakota Johnson plays the personal assistant and Tracee Ellis Ross (daughter of the incredibly talented singer Diana Ross) plays the superstar and the movie markets itself as JUST the relationship between those two, a la The Devil Wears Prada, except that Ross’s character is much less of an asshole than Meryl Streep was. The real other half of the movie is about Dakota Johnson discovering some new musical talent while she’s out shopping for grocery’s for Ross, a guy named David Cliff, and their relationship as she lies to him, selling herself as an experienced movie producer, because it seems as though Ross’s character doesn’t take any of her career suggestions seriously and Johnson’s career is likely to go nowhere because of it. This is where the movie’s true heart lies, as the acting between Dakota Johnson and the actor that plays David Cliff, Kelvin Harrison Jr. really uplifts, takes flight, and never gets uninteresting. Sure, the stuff between Johnson and Ellis Ross is still there as the Plot A style story, but the resolution of it ends up pretty much how you’d expect, except for ONE HUGE twist that I didn’t see coming, but maybe probably should have.
Doing some research on the crew of the making of this movie, I found out that it was no surprise that I enjoyed this film more than I should’ve, because the director of this movie, a Ms. Nisha Ganatra, also directly the incredibly entertaining movie Late Night, that starred Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling that came out last year. While I still prefer that film out of the two, mainly due to Mindy Kaling’s incredible screenplay writing ability (not her acting), this film reaches those entertaining heights pretty closely at times. While I don’t watch Blackish, Tracee Ellis Ross is really great here and Ice Cube has now finally been in something decent in awhile since the 21 Jump Street movies. Dakota Johnson though, I think, gives her best performance yet, kind of proving that she probably should’ve said no to that Fifty Shades trilogy when she got offered the part awhile ago. The banter is witty, the dialogue feels fresh although familiar, and the time just passes by as you watch this. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the music! While there are a couple of cover songs, most of the things sung in this, mostly by Kelvin Harrison Jr., was original, felt fresh, and had a fun beat. I am very happy the movie didn’t go the route of having the whole thing just be covers of songs we’ve heard too many times before. The High Note definitely ended on a high note for me, as my wife and I talked about how decent the film was, how much we enjoyed it, how others we know would enjoy it, and that we’d probably enjoy it just as much again on a re watch or two.