Review: The High Note is a mostly agreeable rom-com

Kate Rodger reviews The High Note.
Photo credit: Focus Features

Who knew Golden Globe-winning actor Tracee Ellis Ross comes from music royalty - certainly not me - and there is little doubt she has her mother's genes when it comes to singing for her supper.

The High Note is not a Diana Ross biopic, but there's no mistaking a little of her DNA.

Ross plays global superstar Grace Davis, selling out stadiums with her greatest hits and under pressure from her manager to retire to a lucrative Las Vegas residency.

But she has more to say and more to sing, and the only person who privately shares her vision is her hard-working assistant Maggie (Dakota Johnson).

But when Maggie sees potential in David (Kelvin Harrison Jnr) - professionally and romantically - things get complicated. Her secret dream of being a music producer herself is ignited by David's obvious musical talents, a dream which will send her on a collision course with her demanding boss

The performances here are all strong, with both Ellis Ross and Harrison doing all their own singing for added authenticity. Johnson doesn't exactly dial it in but I get the feeling this role was no big stretch and the same can be said for Ice Cube as Grace's longtime producer and manager Jack.

The murky politics of fame, gender and the music industry permeate this story and with two strong women at the centre of this film it should have driven that narrative home with more vigour.

But if it's a mostly agreeable rom-com you're after, one underpinned by a fresh soundtrack celebrating many of the greats in American music then The High Note might just be for you.

Three stars.