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MOVIE GUY — Music and romance hit the High Note

If there’s a silver lining to the current state of the movie biz, it’s that Hollywood’s blockbuster-only mindset has evaporated, allowing mid-range films to make a splash on home streaming services.

The latest beneficiary of this is The High Note, a music industry rom com that would probably have been a middling success at the cineplex, but now it’s a welcome treat for audiences looking for a reason to cuddle up on the living room couch. This is a film that has plenty of feel-good, romantic comedy vibes, as well as some genuinely affecting family drama and a healthy dose of girl power bravado.

Dakota Johnson stars as Maggie, the personal assistant to Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross), a world-famous R&B diva who’s getting too old to still be a force in pop music. In between getting Grace’s coffee and dry cleaning, Maggie dreams of becoming a music producer, and she gets her chance when she meets David (Kevin Harrison Jr.), who is a singer-songwriter with strong opinions about pop music.

It’s a strained meet cute moment for the pair, but they have obvious chemistry so it’s not too difficult to start seeing the two. Indeed, they are so right for each other that the screenplay must invent some incredulous obstacles for what should really be a love-at-first-sight story.

Adding extra meat to this movie is Ross, as in the real-life daughter of legendary diva Diana. She’s playing a character who is struggling with her desire to continue making music while her producer (Ice Cube) wants her to cash in with a Las Vegas casino residency.

I found her artistic dilemma to be genuinely intriguing. That’s a welcome surprise if only because most rom coms are only interested in the budding romance. Ross fleshes out the story, which makes this film into more than just a bit of fluff.

I also enjoyed the film’s musical moments. Ross and Harrison can sing, so it’s easy to believe in their performances. I don’t know that much about music producing, but the film has just enough industry jargon and scenes for me to buy into the setting.

What’s more, this is told from a female point of view, so the film doesn’t get bogged down in anything too sexual or distasteful.

The bottom line is The High Note hits the right note as a moving family drama as well as an escapist romantic comedy. I was swept up by the music and the romance, and enjoyed all the performances, even if the script stretches credulity at times. This is a delightful bit of escapist fantasy — perfect for your home theater this weekend.

The High Note will begin streaming on demand May 29.

 

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week in The Port Arthur News and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@sbgtv.com.

 

The High Note

Focus Features

Directed by Nisha Ganatra

Starring Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kevin Harrison Jr. and Ice Cube

Rated PG-13

 

3 Stars