‘The High Note’ Review: Tracee Ellis Ross Takes A Page From Mom’s Playbook

'The High Note' Review: Tracee Ellis Ross Takes A Page From Mom's Playbook
After the Trilogy “Fifty Shades”Dakota Johnson exhibits a new, more flattering tone as Maggie, the harassed assistant to Ross’ superstar Grace Davis. Introduced from Maui via private jet, Grace faces a high-class problem as her manager (Ice Cube) pushes her into a Las Vegas residence, which regards Grace as creative purgatory.

Maggie, a long-time fan with ideas about the music business that are eventually explained, longs to be a producer and continues to exceed her place on the chart. Specifically, he gently pushes Grace to maintain her artistic integrity, reminding the star of her own quote: “When there are no more surprises, who am I doing it for?”

During her rare downtime, Maggie also meets a talented singer, David (Kelvin Harrison Jr., who is coming off a great year with “Waves” and “Luce”), and is also involved in her career. There’s a “Working Girl” quality as she runs between the two, juggling production work and growling, seemingly through thick and thin, complicated by the chemistry she and David possess.

“The High Note” employs a fairly conventional story and songbook, including a view of the music industry that doesn’t stray far from “A Star is Born.” The same goes for the places and glamor of Los Angeles.

The journey feels a little bumpy at first, as the movie progresses somewhat awkwardly along those parallel tracks. However, as directed by Nisha Ganatra (“Late at night”), the story has enough weight to attract the audience, and manages to find humanity in Grace despite her privileged existence.

He credits much of that to Ross, as the “Black-ish” star reverses his mother’s path from the concert stage to the screen, making his musical debut cleverly making his own singing, creating an image of stardom that is vanishes. In what amounts to a team of artists with famous parents, Johnson also portrays Maggie as someone whose appreciation of music drives her professionally, while also becoming the foundation of her relationship with David.

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The lady does not sing the blues, but in addition to the original songs, the soundtrack features many classics, such as Harrison singing “You Send Me” and “Let’s Stay Together”. There are also cameos for Bill Pullman and Eddie Izzard in small but significant roles.

Practically speaking, the film joins the list of movies whose theatrical debut was affected by the coronavirus that would likely have had trouble making a lot of box office noise anyway.

Something that avoided that pressure, “The High Note” is a joyous way to kill a few hours. Granted, it’s more of an opening act than a headliner, but that simply makes your on-demand digital residence feel like the place where the movie legitimately belongs.

“The High Note” is available to order starting May 29. It has a PG-13 rating.

Will Smith

About the author: Will Smith

Alfred Lee covers public and private tech markets from New York. He was previously a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University, and prior to that was a reporter at the Los Angeles Business Journal. He has received a Journalist of the Year award from the L.A. Press Club and an investigative reporting award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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