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The High Note

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NEW YORK — Glossy and generally upbeat, "The High Note" (Focus), a blend of comedy and drama from director Nisha Ganatra, is a pleasant tune rather than an aria for the ages.

Still, the film's positive view of human nature offsets those elements of talk and behavior that flag it as grown-up fare so that viewers will likely be inclined to hum along with it readily enough.

Dakota Johnson plays perky Angeleno Maggie Sherwoode. Though she works as a personal assistant to famous rock star Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross), Maggie secretly aspires to be a music producer.

Along with her career ambitions, Maggie fosters a vision for middle-aged Grace's future that conflicts with the cautious plans of Grace's manager, Jack Robertson (Ice Cube). Jack wants his client to take a secure long-term gig performing in Las Vegas rather than risk recording any new material, something she hasn't done for a decade.

While Maggie's chances of ever becoming Grace's producer seem remote, doing so for promising singer-songwriter David Cliff (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) — a free-spirited but insecure musician whom Maggie meets when he flirts with her in a grocery store — appears to be a more realistic prospect.

As she nurtures David's gifts, the two swiftly fall for each other. But Maggie eventually finds herself caught between the demands of her day job and the hours required to advance David's career.

Screenwriter Flora Greeson surrounds Maggie with an ensemble of appealing characters and generally steers clear of stereotypes and villains. Thus, for example, Grace is neither an impossible diva nor an alcohol- and drug-besotted mess.

Similarly, Jack, though focused on the bottom line, is Grace's old and loyal friend. Gail, a hanger-on in Grace's entourage, is the closest thing to a negative presence in "The High Note." Yet even she is more comically misguided than wicked.

Greeson's script takes it for granted that Maggie and David should bed down together as their relationship progresses. But, on screen at least, they're merely shown cuddling. Vinegary Jack, for his part, has a fondness for cussing that helps inject a large dose of coarse dialogue into the proceedings.

While it may not be a family movie, "The High Note" benefits from a sunny personality. And, though it follows a well-traveled arc, it does so smoothly and with satisfying results.

Watch out for: The film contains a couple of premarital bedroom scenes, a few profanities, several milder oaths, at least one rough and many crude and crass terms.

Rated: A-III, PG-13

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020