Per a study compiled by the international streaming guide JustWatch, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings,” Wonder Woman 1984” and “Citizen Kane” topped the list of HBO Max’s ten most-watched films since the streamer’s debut last May. Focus Features’ “The High Note” may not have made the cut, but the flick struck a nerve with audiences nonetheless. I can’t turn around these days, it seems, without seeing or hearing a mention of it. The allure is understandable.
Feelgood through and through, screenwriter Flora Greeson says of the film, “I hope that it’s an hour and 40 minutes during which you don’t have to think about the insanity of our world right now. You get to enjoy it and it makes you feel safe. My favorite movies are like comfort blankets. It would be so great if this movie could do that for someone else.” By all accounts, it has.
Initially slated for a theatrical release on May 8, 2020, “The High Note” wound up debuting via video-on-demand later that month at the height of the pandemic. Though The New York Times deemed it “a little pitchy,” considering the cheerful tone running throughout, the timing of the launch couldn’t have been more appropriate. As star Tracee Ellis Ross told Reuters, “If there’s any opportunity to give a little bit of joy or escapism or entertainment in this time, then I’m happy to do that.”
Directed by Nisha Ganatra, of “Late Night” fame, the movie tells the story of Grace Davis (Ross), a superstar singer/songwriter facing middle age and the show business career pitfalls that come with it, and her highly optimistic personal assistant Maggie Sherwoode (Dakota Johnson), who wants nothing more than to become Grace’s music producer.
With Ross singing her own vocals, “The High Note” is worth watching for the soundtrack alone – not to mention the locations! Set and filmed in Los Angeles, the flick showcases some of the city’s best sites. It is at Laurel Canyon staple the Canyon Country Store that Maggie first meets her love interest, singer David Cliff (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), and trades barbs with him about the Phantom Planet song “California.” Grace’s ill-fated album release party is held at Hollywood’s landmark Yamashiro restaurant. Maggie works on remixing Grace’s songs at the famed Capitol Records Building. (Fun fact – the light on the spire on top of the structure spells out “Hollywood” in old morse code at night. It doesn’t get any more iconic than that!) And the stunning house where David lives is a John Lautner-designed marvel located at 10160 Maude Ave. in Shadow Hills, a pastoral community situated at the eastern edge of the San Fernando Valley. (Please remember this is a private home. Do not trespass or bother the residents or the grounds in any way.)