Sometimes you can’t think of a witty way to begin a review and just need to get into it, and this is one of those times.
“The High Note” stars Dakota Johnson as the personal assistant to a famous singer (Tracee Ellis Ross), who aspires to be a music producer of her own. Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Ice Cube also star as Nisha Ganatra directs.
Dakota Johnson is one of those actors who if you think of for just a second you may not picture her as charming simply because of the franchise she launched her career with is so bland (“50 Shades of Grey”), but she has since proven that she is likable and bubbly, and a welcome presence in any film she’s in (“How to Be Single” is fantastic fun). She again warms the screen with her dorkable simplicity here, and is sometimes enough to elevate a familiar story and sometimes aimless direction.
Johnson stars as Maggie, the personal assistant to Tracee Ellis Ross’ Grace Davis (for the uninitiated, Ellis Ross is the real-life daughter of Motown singer Diana Ross). Johnson, along with the scenes she shares with rising star Kelvin Harrison Jr., has a comforting screen presence about her that shines through, and despite being a beautiful movie star can sell the everyday normal girl.
Playing a middle-aged singer, Ellis Ross may be channeling some of her mom’s real-life career (a subplot involves her wanting to become just the second black woman over 40 to have a number one hit song). Ellis Ross is solid enough in the role and is able to bring some of the deadpan chuckles that has made her a standout in “Black-ish,” but her role and issues almost feel like afterthoughts to Johnson and her pursuit of a producing career. Nothing inherently wrong with that, however until the third act when the obligatory drama has to come to a head, Ellis Ross’ existence in the film doesn’t really feel necessary.
Shot by Jason McCormick who was the DP on “Booksmart,” the film looks warm and crisp, and the Los Angeles setting offers some beautiful backdrops and fun landmarks. There are a few nice color pallet choices, too, which keep some of the shot-reverse-shot dialogue sequences (some of which are witty and others bland) engaging.
With a film like “The High Note” I feel Joe Pesci said it best in “The Irishman:” it is what it is. It’s a light early summer rom-com that you’ve seen done before, and if you miss it then your life will continue on without any interruptions or love lost. But if you have two hours to kill (and right now, who among us doesn’t?) then you can do worse. Take that recommendation how you will.
Critics Rating: 6/10