Director: Nisha Ganatra
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Release Date: August 11, 2020
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 7/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
Set in the dazzling world of the LA music scene comes the story of Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross), a superstar whose talent, and ego, have reached unbelievable heights, and Maggie (Dakota Johnson), her overworked personal assistant. While stuck running errands, Maggie still aspires to her childhood dream of becoming a music producer. When Grace’s manager (Ice Cube) presents her with a choice that could alter the course of her career, Maggie and Grace come up with a plan that could change their lives forever.
‘The High Note’ accompanies Maggie (Johnson), the ever in demand personal assistant to music icon Grace Davis (Ross) in the fast paced world of the LA music scene who amid her hectic schedule and the constant demands of her legendary boss wants more, dreaming of becoming a producer to stars just like Grace. Unfortunately, the last thing anyone who knows her as a mere personal assistant wants is to give her a chance at it, causing her to quietly produce her own versions of Grace’s music in her few free minutes. But when she crosses paths with an incredibly talented unknown singer (Harrison Jr) it just might bring her the opportunity she’s been dreaming of. That is assuming that she can somehow find a way to balance these two jobs without it causing more trouble in the process.
Directed by Nisha Ganatra (Late Night) from a screenplay by first time screenwriter Flora Greeson, Ganatra does a great job altogether at the helm of ‘The High Note’ guiding along this surprisingly character-centric take on the music industry with style. The film also benefits greatly from the cast which features a number of talented individuals and includes Dakota Johnson (The Peanut Butter Falcon), Tracee Ellis Ross (TV’s Black-ish), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (The Photograph), Bill Pullman (Dark Waters), Zoë Chao (Downhill), Eddie Izzard (TV’s Hannibal) and Ice Cube (Fist Fight) along with more, the majority offering quite capable performances for the most part in each of their respective roles.
‘The High Note’ is an enjoyable, frequently funny and occasionally quite touching exploration of two women and their personal experiences within the dazzling LA music scene. As opposed to focusing on the music industry itself and the prominent part it plays within the glamour of Los Angeles, it instead takes a more direct look at two specific individuals who work together and yet play drastically different roles within the world, even relegating a somewhat charming love story to the background in order to allow its concentration on these characters and their places in the music industry to always remain the focal point of the tale. While one is nothing short of a superstar whose name is known far and wide, she still finds herself bogged down by the players around her who always believe they know what is best and push their own agendas while casually disregarding her own thoughts and goals. The other works tirelessly as a personal assistant to the star and dreams of becoming a producer, something that’s easier said than done when everyone around her including those she thought believed in and trusted her refuse to even give her pleas a second consideration. The characters are solid and easily able to get behind and the stars that portray them only help to make things work even more smoothly. It’s an incredibly entertaining and fun film that has a lot going for it, but also occasionally suffers from its lazy decisions; too often falling into silly stereotypes and relying on familiar formulas as opposed to attempting to take the story somewhere fresh and unique.
Overall, ‘The High Note’ is an entertaining look at two women and their drastically different, yet in many ways quite similar careers in the music industry and the hurdles and choices they’re each faced with when tough decisions and potential opportunities they’ve been awaiting appear almost attainable. I would recommend ‘The High Note’ to anyone who is likely to appreciate a feel good film exploring the music scene in LA and its various elements combined with a more than capable cast to help keep things working smoothly throughout. It’s probably not going to be a top Oscar contender nor be a constant on the best of the year lists by any means, but it’s a sweet, charming and frequently humorous outing with some characters you can care about and even a background love story that should at the very least make a great selection for an easygoing evening of entertainment at home.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The High Note’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation with the film’s original 2.39:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks fantastic as a whole and provides a consistently sharp, clean and beautifully detailed presentation from start to finish with bright vibrant colors frequently on prominent display and no notable faults or issues to be uncovered throughout. It holds up quite nicely even during the various fast moving, darkly lit and heavily populated moments, never allowing any onscreen activity to become negatively affected. Overall, this is a great high definition video presentation from Universal that should easily please fans of the film and first time viewers alike.
The Blu-ray release features a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack. The multichannel soundtrack offers a sharp, crisp and frequently aggressive audio presentation throughout. It regularly takes advantage of all seven available channels in order to immerse the viewer within the music elements, allowing different aspects and effects from the music production to cleverly bounce between the various speakers, while also sending crowd chatter, nature effects and more throughout whenever fitting, all while making sure that any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously remain clean and fully audible at all times. Overall, this is solid 7.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that never disappoints and repeatedly contributes its share of additional fun to the overall viewing experience.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The High Note’ features a few fun extras that fans of the film should enjoy. Included on the release is a collection of ‘Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes’ from the movie (running approximately 26 minutes in length altogether), in addition to the Behind the Scenes Featurette ‘The Dream Team: Inside the Creation of The High Note’ (running approximately 5 minutes) and an amusing look at the film’s fictional music star in ‘Making A Legend: The Grace Davis Story’ (approximately 4 minutes) which almost plays like a condensed version of a ‘Behind the Music’ television special. Also included is the ‘”Like I Do” Original Song Music Video’ (approximately 3 minutes).