Dakota Johnson stars as the assistant to an internationally renown music superstar who dreams of becoming a producer in Nisha Ganatra’s latest romantic comedy The High Note. Produced by Working Title Films, this is the second big blockbuster film to be made available by Universal on digital at a premium price during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Written by newcomer Flora Greeson, the film does a great job in laying out an interesting premise but is sadly let down by a screenplay which feels hugely outdated and, let’s face it, more than a little contrived.
After 3 years as long suffering personal assistant to global superstar Grace Davis (a fantastically acerbic Tracee Ellis Ross), Maggie (Johnson) has set her eyes on a brand new career as producer. Although inexperienced, Maggie has a great ear for music and it soon transpires that she knows far more about the business than your average lowly assistant. When Grace is offered a lucrative Vegas residency in lieu of a brand new album, Maggie advises her boss to pass on the opportunity and focus on releasing some new material for her adoring fans.
Meanwhile, after a chance meeting, Maggie takes it upon herself to help produce young and up-and-coming singer/songwriter David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) who soon falls madly in love with her, further complicating their working relationship. All hell breaks loose when Maggie and Grace’s long time manager Jack (Ice Cube in scenery chewing form) fall out over the singer’s new direction. This soon presents both women with a choice that could alter the course of their respective careers forever.
Ganatra presents an impressively well acted and beautifully executed rom-com which is sadly hugely let down by a screenplay which feels at least 2 decades out of date. With great comedy moments courtesy of Ellis Ross in particular, and some more serious themes thrown in for good measure, you get the impression that there are two narratives fighting it out for centre stage. And while there is a lot to be appreciate about the premise of the film, there is also a sense there isn’t really much of a story here, and ultimately we are left feeling slightly shortchanged.
Another negative aspect of the film resides in the music itself. We are expected to believe that Grace is this huge soul diva influenced by the likes of Aretha Franklin, but her own music has more in common with the bubblegum pop artists such as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.
Overall, The High Note is ultimately let down by a fairly pedestrian screenplay and a narrative which never quite delivers on its initial promise. Having said that, there is still a lot to enjoy here, not least thanks to Johnson’s beautifully understated and wonderfully breezy delivery. Enjoyable, but far from earth-shattering.