The High Note had me interested mainly because of two things: Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross. Since breaking free from the garbage that is the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, Johnson has starred in a number of high quality films that have showcased her real talent. After being impressed by Bad Times at the El Royale, Suspiria, and The Peanut Butter Falcon, I’ve become a fan of hers and her performance here is just as strong as it was in all those other films. I haven’t been a follower of Ross’s but I’ve seen her on talk shows and in different forms of media and have always had a fondness of her.
The most impressive muscle has to flex is the cast and the performances they offer up. Dakota Johnson, like I said, has actually done some great films since the Fifty Shades franchise has come to an end…. thank ya Jesus! God awful films. Anyways… she plays her character with a very endearing likability and even though she is confident and talented, she never comes off as overly arrogant. She has a consistent lovable personality and she’s able to bring in the audience and connect with them.
Johnson has great talent and is able to carry a film well and The High Note is yet another example of that. I’ve never seen Black-ish so I can’t really speak to Ross’s previous performances but I can say that I enjoyed her performance a lot in this. She handles the dramatic scenes well and conveys her character’s fear well. Even though her character is a huge Grammy winning singer and has enjoyed a lot of success, she is scared of putting out fresh new material for the first time in a long time and cites the fact that there’s only been a very small handful of middle aged black artists that have been successful at that.
I like that they brought up the very small amount of older black female artists that have still been able to have success because it’s a very real fear. Falling flat on your face is something we all have feared in life. Ross handles this fear and conveys the inner struggle of her character with impressive ease. Aside from the drama, Ross also handles the comedy well. She has several very funny scenes.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. is also very good as the love interest for Johnson. He plays the budding young artist who’s very charismatic and lovable. Is this a stereotype? Sure it is. Could he have been a little better developed? Yeah, sure. Was he still very likable though and do he and Johnson have good chemistry? For sure! They fit well and share a number of tender scenes that have a soothing ease to them. I love seeing a budding tender connection in a film and the scenes they have show that. They are both young and still trying to get their foot in the door and it’s sweet to see them trying to climb up together. I really look forward to seeing Harrison in future projects and I’m sure he has a bright future in the industry…. he’s got the goods!
As far as Ice Cube goes… I mean I’m just not a big fan. I’ve never really liked him in films that much and while he doesn’t ruin anything in The High Note, but every time he came onscreen I just wanted to move on to the next scene. The script is fairly by the numbers and the trajectory of the plot is stereotypical for sure, no getting around that. I also think if they would’ve made the plot just slightly less by the numbers the film would have been more successful in the end. Now I want to be clear by saying that I overall did like the script, but it had potential to be better.
Something I found interesting about the romance between Johnson and Harrison is that while they do sleep together at one point, there was no love scene. Since their chemistry is so good and they are both attractive people, I think it would’ve been tender and nice to have had a short love scene. This is no knock or criticism per say because the film not having a love scene didn’t hurt anything. I just think tender intimate love scenes done with taste can help to say more about the connection between two characters.
The High Note benefits from a talented cast, a tender romance, and relatable issues facing its characters. It could’ve been less stereotypical and Ice Cube is kind of a weak link, but overall this is a pretty good time.