May 25, 2020

SCREEN | Dakota Johnson Reaches for 'The High Note'

Dakota Johnson Nisha Ganatra | The High Note
Focus Features / Working Title Films
What's both so inviting and limiting about director Nisha Ganatra's glossy work dramedy about the music industry is how light and inessential it feels. The High Note dives right into the record business for a standard situational comedy about producing hit records in a changing world.

Starring Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross as Maggie and Grace, a personal assistant looking to be a music producer and her fading pop diva superstar boss, each is at a professional crossroads. Set up as a buddy comedy (think The Devil Wears Prada switching out fashion for music) about Maggie's efforts to be taken seriously in the music industry while balancing Grace's celebrity demands and ego, the film relies too heavily on Johnson and Ross' natural charm as offsprings of famous entertainers in real life.

An endlessly charismatic Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the film's clear highlight waltzes in as a double, both a potential client for Maggie and romantic interest, in what ultimately comes off as a lightly shoehorned rom-com relationship involving a professional lie that resolves very undramatically before shifting gears towards Grace's professional malaise. Talents like Ice Cube, Zoë Chao, and Bill Pullman come in as underused supporting players to flesh out the tin character development of the two leads.

Dakota Johnson Nisha Ganatra | The High Note

Flora Greeson's script never commits to either the professional industry drama nor the conventional romantic comedy premise and then the third act completely changes the story's trajectory. Everyone seems to be in a different film with performances edited together that don't quite fit all the competing elements of the characters' goals.

The predictable material seems so light for the talents of Johnson and Ellis and powerhouse performers. They make enough of the film and circumstances watchable but The High Note never reaches for more from its many musical, comedic, dramatic, or romantic elements.

The High Note is available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand starting May 29th.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Slashfilm / THR

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