Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Zoe Chao, Ice Cube, June Diane Raphael, Deniz Akdeniz, Bill Pullman, Eddie Izzard, Diplo, Eugene Cordero, Marc Evan Jackson
Written by: Flora Greeson
Directed by: Nisha Ganatra
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language, and suggestive references
Running Time: 113
Date: 05/29/2020

The High Note (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Love Yourself

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Nisha Ganatra's follow up to her Late Night (2019) contains a similar dynamic — the female relationship between a newcomer and an established professional in the entertainment industry — suggesting an interesting pattern. But The High Note is no carbon copy; Ganatra's style allows for an easy, lightweight entertainment while still focusing on organic, three-dimensional characters. Moreover, the film's portrayal of the music biz feels authentic, which is rarer in these kinds of films than one might imagine. Dakota Johnson stars as Maggie, the harried assistant to pop diva Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross), fetching her power drinks and personal things from the pharmacy. Maggie dreams of being a producer, while Grace wishes to do some new material, rather than the greatest-hits shows she has been doing. Meanwhile, her manager, Jack (Ice Cube, in a hilarious role-reversal), pushes her to take a long-term Las Vegas residence. And Maggie discovers the silken-voiced David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and begins working with him, not telling Grace about her extracurricular activities. Of course, it all comes to a head, but in a smooth, respectful way. The best part is that neither woman has to be knocked down to size, as in movies like The Devil Wears Prada, but rather, they wind up supporting each other. Bill Pullman co-stars, great in a lovely sequence, but Zoe Chao plays a fairly typical "best friend" character, whose only concern is Maggie's happiness. Star Ross is actually the daughter of Diana, and she makes her singing debut here, with a pretty catchy song, "Love Myself."

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