The High Note

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The High Note Movie Poster Image
Female-centric music dramedy strikes an entertaining chord.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 113 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Success isn't won, it's earned through hard work and perseverance. Together, women can help each other's dreams come true. Telling the truth is important. The music industry can be very challenging for women.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maggie works very hard to break into a male-dominated profession; she's passionate, creative, confident in her opinions and abilities, even though she takes some risks and makes mistakes. Grace can be selfish and cutting but also recognizes and values talent and loyalty and is very aware of her status as an example of lasting Black female success. All of the film's Black characters are confident and successful. Cast and crew are largely female and/or Black.

Violence

Yelling/arguing; cruel remarks.

Sex

Kissing. A couple implications of sex, including one shot in which a couple is seen snuggling in their underwear.

Language

Strong language includes: "ass," "booby," "bulls--t," "damn," "d--k," "douche bag," "dumbass," "hell," "goddamn," "pissed," "screw you," "s--t," and "son of a bitch."

Consumerism

Grace lives a posh life, which she boasts about and other characters covet; she has designer clothes/accessories, a luxury sports car, and a private jet. Specific labels/brands seen or mentioned include Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Rolls-Royce.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Party scene and other instances of social drinking. In one scene, a character is drunk but responsibly calls for a ride home. A couple mentions of drugs, but not in context of any characters using.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The High Note is an appealing musical drama about the complex relationship between aging superstar singer Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) and her ambitious personal assistant, Maggie (Dakota Johnson). A romantic subplot includes implied sex, but no more than kissing/snuggling in underwear is shown. Characters drink in social situations, and one gets comically drunk (she calls someone else to drive her home). Strong language isn't particularly frequent but includes "s--t," "d--k," and more. Grace's high-end life is full of designer labels, including Dior, Louis Vuitton, and others. Maggie dreams of being a music producer -- a profession that still has shockingly few women -- and the film doesn't shy away from the challenges that women face in the music industry, including ageism and sexism (and, in Maggie's case, a really demanding boss). But there are also strong messages about perseverance, loyalty, and female empowerment. Overall, this is a great choice for families with teens.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydavispittman June 12, 2020

Well performed with likable characters

The best thing this film has going for it is it’s cast and the characters they play. Everyone gives a fine performance, especially Johnson and Ross. The script... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byEthan_whaterver June 21, 2020

Invigorating drama/comedy movie with two powerful female leads

The movie was great, with a positive message involved throughout. Some strong language which is why I give it 10+, but other than that, the movie is completely... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byhectorfrausto June 14, 2020

Great Movie for Families with Tweens/Teens!

The High Note is a great movie for a family movie night with households with tweens/teens! Grace is an aging famous music artist, and the movie follows her rela... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE HIGH NOTE, Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) is an aging music sensation who's struggling to stay relevant while remaining true to her artistry. Her young assistant, Maggie (Dakota Johnson) -- who has her own musical ambitions -- puts herself on the line to help Grace succeed in the next chapter of her career. Ice Cube, Bill PullmanJune Diane Raphael, Eddie Izzard, and Kelvin Harrison, Jr. co-star. 

Is it any good?

This may be the story of a rock star, but director Nisha Ganatra orchestrates her film as if it's a symphony. Peeking inside a musician's life has always fascinated moviegoers, whether it's the megawatt rise of A Star Is Born, the excesses of Get Him to the Greek, or the ridiculousness of This Is Spinal Tap. With The High Note, we get a funny but personal look at how a well-respected legend navigates keeping public opinion high and money flowing, even when some clearly consider her past her prime. Grace's struggles are seen through Maggie's eyes. Not only Grace's assistant but also a lifelong admirer, Maggie -- like so many aspiring people in entertainment -- is trying to figure out how to get to the next rung in her career ladder while keeping hold of the coattails of someone more successful. The film reeks of authenticity, which is solidified by casting Ross and Ice Cube (as Grace's manager, Jack): These two hold true knowledge of the music industry and real power in the entertainment community. It's hard to believe they'd allow the film to go off-key.

Known mostly for hitting it out of the park on TV (black-ish), this performance makes it clear that it's time to see Ross as a movie star. Sure, as the daughter of Diana Ross and music manager Bob Ellis, she's been training to play a diva her entire life. But what's really striking is that while she nails every line, every look, and every gesture, she is in no way doing an impression of her mother -- or of any other diva. Grace Davis is a complete original, and yet she's familiar. Kelvin Harrison, Jr. continues to show off his versatility -- it's hard to believe an actor so young already has such a wide range, and now he proves that he can sing, too. The High Note is the first piece of produced work for screenwriter Flora Greeson, and it proves that she's one to watch. Some of the characters' choices may make viewers want to plug their ears, but that makes the film an even better choice for families with teens, who can discuss: Were the characters' choices realistic, honest, or relatable?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The High Note portrays institutional ageism and sexism in the music industry. Women have been trying to figure out how to combat this culturally ingrained behavior for centuries. What do you think can be done?

  • How do both Grace and Maggie demonstrate perseverance? Why is that an important character strength?

  • How is drinking portrayed in the film? Is it glamorized?

  • Another character tells Maggie that if she wants to be seen in a more significant role, she's got to earn it. What does he mean? Does she face additional barriers to success in her work due to her gender?

  • How does The High Note compare to other movies about the music industry? Do you think it's realistic? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love musical dramas

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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