In recent years, there have been a lot of films which showcase different generations working in the same industry, delivering wisdom to one another. Robert De Niro parts his wise words on Anne Hathaway’s successful business woman in Nancy Meyer’s The Intern whilst Mindy Kahling tries her hand at comedy whilst teaching Emma Thompson’s comic to becoming more warming in Late Night.
The director of the latter film, Nisha Ganatra, returns again with similar lessons in musical based movie The High Note.
Starring Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross, The High Note revolves around fictional pop sensation Grace Davies and her personal assistant Margaret. Vastly underappreciated and bossed around, Maggie yearns to be a record producer. Every night she sneaks into a studio and works on Grace’s tracks for an upcoming live album. Grace feels underappreciated by her manager and label, who are insisting she takes up a ten-year residency at Las Vegas, performing only the same tracks over and over again. Maggie, however, feels that it’s time for Grace to create new music. On top of this, Maggie comes across David Cliff – a talented singer/songwriter who she wishes to produce music with as well as fall for.
The High Note never delivers on its titular promise and is actually quite flat. The first half the film is amiable enough with the pleasant yet over-familiar storyline: a put out assistant dreams of something bigger and waits for her boss to see her potential. This is somehow stretched over two hours – throughout the whole storyline Maggie is beaten down by industry folk who say that she doesn’t deserve to be a producer. This tale has been done so often that with The High Note it’s like slipping into a lukewarm bath that’s just stagnated over time.
Same can be said for Maggie’s romance with David, played by the super talented Kelvin Harrison Jr. They are a fine couple but it is devoid of passion.
The films greatest flaw is that it drops its “twist” roughly 15 minutes towards the end of the film. Keen movie watchers would’ve probably guessed what was going to happen at a climatic part of the film but instead of exploring it then, the movie leaves it to dangle until the end of the film. Now this is a huge reveal that actually changes the core of one of the characters, and explains a lot about another. This is the type of story change that works best in the middle of the movie – so you have time to develop this sudden shift in narrative. Instead, it is sandwiched at the end and suddenly, happily, resolved.
Nice is probably the best way to describe The High Note. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just nice. Which is fine but The High Note could’ve been a belting beauty. Instead, The High Note is that polite clap you do when your friend performs OK at karaoke. Cool. They did that. On to the next act.
The High Note is out on Digital now!