Tracee Ellis Ross has never been one to live in the shadow of her mother, Diana Ross. In fact, for many of her fans, it came as a surprise when she revealed the identity of her mother. In The High Note,while portraying a character similar to the iconic superstar known as Diana Ross, Tracee Ellis Ross continues to shine and prove her worth as an actress.
Her co-star, the usually bland Dakota Johnson, can feed off of the energy that she exudes. The two have an undeniable spark in the film, and the chemistry between their characters is what keeps this lived-in plot from seeming a bit too familiar to audiences.
At the core of it, The High Note is the story of two ambitious women trying to make it in a world that’s not at all interested in helping them achieve their goals. Grace, the global superstar played by Ross, is at a difficult point in her career. She still has a strong following of fans but feels stuck trying to figure out what her next big move is. Does she play it safe and follow in the footsteps of the greats before her by signing up for a residency in Las Vegas? Or does she do something different? Her fight to stay relevant is, of course, backed by Maggie, her assistant/musician and composer-in-training, played by Johnson.
One of The High Note’s greatest assets is Tracee Ellis Ross’ phenomenal stage presence and incredible sense of fashion. The film offers this up in spades, despite the fact that her character is well-aware of the fact that she puts on “the same show every night.” While this alone provides more than enough drama, the script also involves a series of schemes that heighten tensions between Grace and Maggie. Inevitably, these tensions do need to be resolved. Watching the energy shared between Johnson and Ross is a delight, and the two clearly work very well together. However, this story is one that we have been told before. In essence, it is a less mean-spirited version of The Devil Wears Prada.
Having said that, there is a reason why formulaic movies such as these work so well with audiences. In a time where we could all do with a bit of a laugh and a heart-warming tale, The High Note gives us exactly what we need: two wonderful leading ladies, moments of empowerment, the familiarity of feeling uncertain, excellent costumes and the perfect ending for both lead characters.
The movie’s supporting cast is also quite impressive, featuring the likes of Ice Cube as Grace’s scream-happy manager. June Diane Raphael appears as the star’s old friend and employee, and Eugene Cordero of The Good Place is frequently seen as Grace’s go-to studio engineer. In Maggie’s corner, Zoe Chao brings a good few laughs as the BFF.
Overall, The High Note makes for a fun, light-hearted and enjoyable comedy. It’s certainly something we’ve all seen before and we know where toplay if we want more original entertainment, but it is also a formula that we all love. Definitely worth a watch.