The High Note review – a romantic comedy without romance or comedy

Young love has never seemed more lifeless than it does as this dreary drama lurches towards its nauseating finale

There are some comedies that seem to have been rubbed all over with an anti-funny, anti-romance Kryptonite. This is one. It’s the cinematic equivalent of elevator muzak – a festival of glam-smug with zero chemistry between any of its three leads. It’s supposedly a comedy-drama, set in the LA music scene: Tracee Ellis Ross plays Grace Davis, a singing legend in middle age who is faced with the career death of a proposed Vegas residency, being forced on her by a cynical, money-mad manager (Ice Cube). Dakota Johnson plays her demure assistant Maggie, a music superfan and vinyl connoisseur (cue: namedropping references to Joni Mitchell) and also a wannabe producer, who tries persuading Grace to record more new songs and stay true to her creativity.

Maggie also finds herself romantically drawn to a cocky but talented young singer called David (Kelvin Harrison Jr). The relationships – between the women and the two young lovers – are completely without life, and the whole film is bathed in Insta-video blandness. The magic ingredients in pictures like The Devil Wears Prada and A Star is Born are stubbornly absent; it is steadfastly humourless and there is no sense of what’s really at stake in hitting the big time. Dakota Johnson’s performance remains waxily unenthused as she goes through the motions of break-up/make-up with her mentor and her lover, and just when the film is coasting to its unearned emotional resolution, the script gives us an outrageously silly twist, which brings in a truly ghastly celebration of entitlement and unintentional ickiness. It’s sad to see Harrison, who has shown himself a force to be reckoned with in earlier movies, get landed with this dull schlock.

  • The High Note is available on digital platforms from 29 May.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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