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Review: 'The High Note' Falls Flat

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Aug 18, 2020
Review: 'The High Note' Falls Flat

You could be forgiven for thinking that naming this pedestrian drama about a middle-aged rock star "The High Note" was intended as an act of irony, but sadly it wasn't. 

In her first movie starring role, Golden Globe Winner Tracee Ellis Ross ("Black-ish") plays Grace Davis, and cuts a dashing figure in her expensive wardrobe as the tough star that heads up an empire... with more than a passing resemblance to Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada." With her extremely successful career at a crossroads, she is faced with a dilemma: Keep touring and singing all her greatest hits as she has done for years, or trying something new,

Ice Cube plays Jack Robertson, her manager, who wants to safeguard all their incomes by suggesting it's time that Grace went where all aging stars go, i.e. a long-term residence in Las Vegas. However, Maggie Sherwood (Dakota Johnson), the P.A. who is at Grace's beck and call, has secret ambitions to be a music producer.

Johnson is woefully miscast as Maggie, who thinks that she knows enough to make Grace's star shine again. Maggie also picks up another potential client in the shape of budding musician David Cliff (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who also plays the unconvincing love interest. 

"The High Note" is the sophomore film from queer filmmaker Nisha Ganatra, from a script by newbie Flora Greeson, who is a former assistant in the music business. Ms. Ganatra is obviously well-connected, as a handful of tiny cameo roles by major players like Melanie Griffith, Bill Pullman, Diplo, and Eddie Izzard pop up throughout the film. (Izzard stole his very tiny scene with his acid wit, which the movie could have used so much more of.)

Ellis Ross channeling her famous mother still shines, but she would have been better served by a script worthy of her talent.

"The High Note"

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.

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