The High Note review – a tired genre that plays like an average greatest hits album

June 10, 2020
M.N. Miller 0
Film, Film Reviews


The High Note is tired escapist entertainment that plays like an average-at-best musician’s greatest hits album.



The High Note is tired escapist entertainment that plays like an average-at-best musician’s greatest hits album.

The High Note is about the same old story you see in almost any romantic drama nowadays. Its main goal is not to do anything different. All it wants to do is entertain you with, really, pure escapism. This will hit the right notes with casual fans, maybe even a few hardcore ones. It is nothing you haven’t seen before and is a tired exercise in entertainment. For its fine cast and good performances, it plays out like a greatest-hits album, making it strictly for people who are fans of the genre or, by a stretch, its fine cast.

Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish, Mixed-ish) plays superstar and singing legend Grace Davis, who has hit that sweet spot in her illustrious career where she no longer has to tour. She can now sit back, cash her royalty checks, and accept a cushy Vegas residency gig if she wants. The problem is she doesn’t know what she wants to do next, and her career ambition is in limbo. Her overworked and underappreciated assistant, Maggie (Dakota Johnson), has aspirations of her own and doesn’t think her boss’s sun is setting yet, despite what Grace’s manager (Ice Cube) has to say about it.

For all its tired faults, The High Note does work, for the first 90 minutes anyway, as pure escapist entertainment. Johnson has the lead role here and, along with Ross, does a fine job of playing with the themes of power, ambition, and sitting at crossroads in life no matter their varying age differences. Kelvin Harrison Jr has an excellent role as Maggie’s love interest, a soulful singer who appreciates classic singers, including the great Otis Redding. They both have natural chemistry, and Harrison continues to put together an eclectic filmography and shows off an impressive set of pipes to boot — confirming life isn’t fair for the rest of us.

The real star, though, is Ross, who is very good here. I do not doubt that watching her world-famous mother, Dianna Ross, sing for the masses across the world for decades paid off handsomely — there wasn’t a second I doubted that Ross could be a world-class aging pop star. In a weak year for female roles, she may have had a shot at an Oscar nomination for supporting actress if released closer to the award season. It will most likely be forgotten by the time the award season rolls around, despite the shortage of nominees this year based on the current state of film releases.

The problem is the script has nothing we haven’t watched before or seen play out a hundred times this century in romantic dramas. There is nothing offensive about The High Note unless you consider its incomprehensible plot twists offensive to one’s intelligence, and that’s the rub. The film could be regarded as mild escapism done well. Still, the attempt at a cheap, let’s connect the dots for the audience, unbelievably needless ending, is so uncontrollably eye-rolling that it takes any goodwill the viewer had and throws it out the window.
Still, for fans of the genre and the stars,
The High Note doesn’t embarrass itself, and casual fans of the genre or stars will most likely go home happy — just like a fan grabbing ABBA’s greatest hits in the discount bin. There is no need to pay premium video-on-demand prices for this type of watered-down product for the rest of us. Please wait for an airing of this film on cable.

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