Yet another movie that was supposed to shine across cinema screens across the country in 2020, the recently online-released THE HIGH NOTE truly is, if you’ll forgive the cliche, a “feel great movie”. It tells what could have been a familiar meet-cute romantic drama but takes on a terrific power with strong characters you care about, a killer soundtrack and a message on love and respect that I think everyone can relate to. That it’s also just entertaining throughout is a bonus.
The always great Dakota Johnson stars as Maggie, who is the personal assistant to world-famous music star Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross, also terrific here and made me quickly believe). Maggie is great at what she does, but she is also a terrific musician and producer in her own right, even going so far as to work on Davis’ work herself. Maggie also takes on a new “client” named David (Kelvin Harrison Jr., whom I also just saw recently again in WAVES) and tries to bring him up, even though she isn’t an actual producer. And as expected, a romantic relationship comes out of this.
Each of the characters have their own voice and personality; I always admire when movies show dramatic angles but still give us characters that we give a damn about, and THE HIGH NOTE does not fail in this regard. You really root for Maggie even though she’s telling some lies in her current work, but it is all meant for good in the end. I was also surprised by the character of Grace, who sometimes can come across more of a villain in these types of movies but is fully three-dimensional throughout.
THE HIGH NOTE is directed by Nisha Gantara, who wowed me last year with LATE NIGHT starring Emma Thompson as a Letterman-era talk show host, and Mindy Kaling as a recently hired writer to modernize a flailing and dated program. Gantara really is onto something with her recent movies here and I truly see a great modern talent with her filmmaking skill. Reminiscent of music-on-film movies like HEARTS BEAT LOUD and SING STREET that showcases the creation of art, THE HIGH NOTE is a strong and deep experience throughout that has a lot to say on the current music scene, but it’s also a LOT of fun, too. Along with the music sequences that warmed my heart, probably the biggest laugh I have had this year is a “take-out” scene that I really didn’t see coming, along with a late-movie reveal that even surprised this writer who has seen everything.
About the Apple TV Release:
THE HIGH NOTE has been out for a short while on VOD services at a bit of a higher price point, but more recently has been made available to purchase on retailer services. For this review I was sent an Apple TV (formerly iTunes) copy to take a look at, and it’s an overall terrific presentation.
Having upgraded my 4k system again recently, I am always blown away at the visual and audio quality of 4k content; it’s something I immediately noticed when turning this movie on. Isn’t technology grand? Through Apple TV, I was immediately impressed by the look and design of the movie. The full-on Dolby Atmos soundtrack also greatly helped, especially making the music sequences shine, both in the studio AND live performances in the film. I wish I had a better sound system in my house to truly show-off the soundtrack here
The biggest extra on this release is the nearly 30 minutes of deleted/extended scenes. While I don’t typically like watching any deleted scenes as they are typically cut out of the movie, I did sample a few and agreed that they were better left on the cutting room floor.
As per usual on Universal releases, there are also a few standard production featurettes featuring interviews with the cast and crew. The final extra was my favourite, however; the music video “Like I Do” which was also my favourite scene in the actual film.
I would have loved to have heard a commentary track from Nisha Gantara and the main cast on this…but since it’s Apple TV, perhaps one may be added down the road.
THE HIGH NOTE comes highly, highly recommended as a positive, inspiring story that also has rich emotional weight with its message and great respect to representation. I also admired all of the balanced performances;
Overall Rating: ***½ out of ****
THE HIGH NOTE is currently available for purchase on Apple TV and various other retailers including Google Play TV & Movies. My thanks to ThinkJam PR/Universal for providing a copy for review. THE HIGH NOTE will be available at lower cost rental in US and Canada later in the month, and on Blu Ray in early August which will also feature the mentioned extra content.
We will also be having a contest to win a copy around that time as well, so do follow our Facebook page for updates!