The High Note Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The High Note is a perfectly composed film that effortlessly shows the production journey in the music industry. It had an authentic feel and a nostalgic atmosphere because of Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) and her very long, successful music career. The film is about women in different places in the industry, one a superstar and the other an assistant/wannabe producer Maggie Sherwoode (Dakota Johnson). Their relationship appears strong but it is definitely tested throughout the film. It is written by Flora Greeson and directed by Nisha Ganatra (Late Night) who delivered one of the best films of the year.

It is one of the most interesting films that shows the musical journey in Hollywood. Grace Davis is a middle aged woman in the industry, who has locked a Vegas residency. Everyone loves the icon and her assistant Maggie wants to push for a new album, instead of extending the contract for another year. Maggie goes above and beyond her paygrade and ends up getting into arguments with Davis’ manager, Jack Robertson (Ice Cube) who keeps putting her in her place. Flora Greeson accurately tells the story of reinventing a brand and an artists story, through multiple perspectives from the people around her.

This cast is truly something special, they all had wonderful chemistry together, which made for a great ensemble piece for everyone involved. Tracee Ellis Ross was stunning. I don’t know any other way to put it but she just gave off this elegance and prowess in her performance as Grace Davis. Dakota Johnson was lovely in this role and really carried the story with her characters dream to be a producer one day. Ice Cube was cast perfectly as Davis’ manager and definitely had the quippy attitude down pat. While watching this film, the one that truly surprised me was Kelvin Harrison Jr. who played David Cliff in the film. The man is very talented but hearing him sing, just elevated my adoration for him and he should be the name on everyone’s lips after this film.

Everything about this film flowed beautifully from scene to scene. The sound design and soundtrack that accompanied each scene worked so well together, as if everything was placed to shed light on the power of music. It was so heartwarming and you could feel the passion for music from everyone who worked on this film. There was so much care and love into creating this story and you could feel it from the entire team. The direction was great and there were many humorous moments that released some of the tension.

It was important to shed light on the treatment of women in the music industry, especially Black middle aged women in the music industry. Tracee Ellis Ross presented such raw emotion when discussing the sexism, ageism and racial issues that plague the industry. It was also important to highlight the difficulty a female producer would face and the connection shared between Davis and Maggie was important to this story. They shared such a beautiful friendship and I think it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of this film.

The High Note is refreshing and one of the best films of the year. This was a film that needed to be made because it highlights the lives of women in the music industry, in a way that no other film has. This film is also filled with plenty of surprises, especially the twist at the end, which made for a pretty emotional final performance. It is a film that captures women in such a unique light and shows that they are strong enough to create a pathway, for everyone to follow suit. It is all about taking risks and putting in the hardwork, in order to achieve your goals in life.

 

 

Agatha Christine: Next Door Spy Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Agatha Christine: Next Door Spy is an animated film, that tells the story of a young girl, named AC (short for Agatha Christine) that wants to become a detective. She runs her own operation, out of her basement and constructs spy equipment on her own. Young AC wants to solve the crimes in her neighbourhood and comes across a possible burglary at her local grocery store. It has been difficult for AC because no one really takes her seriously as a detective, or even supports her throughout this endeavour.

Director Karla von Bengston wanted to show the journey of a 10 year old girl, trying to harness her true identity, while everyone around her was against her. It’s a touching film that shows the struggles of a young girl, trying to find her identity and attempting to fit a gender stereotype that she does not want to conform to. The animation style is a bit different and I enjoyed how the colouring would change, from dream like detective sequence in black and white, to her reality being in colour. It felt like an old timey, spy film and it worked extremely well.

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Agatha Christie has had trouble making friends in the past and moving to a new city has made matters a bit more difficult for her. As she investigates the burglary, she finds her first suspect, named Vincent, she tries to figure out why he’s stealing, which eventually leads to a weird form of friendship. AC tries to navigate this investigation, while learning about friendship, it’s almost an adult story, masked as a children’s narrative. It was an interesting watch and everything slowly unfolded, so audiences could process everything going on in AC’s mind.

It was almost hard to watch at times because of how her family was treating her and her passion for detective work. She wanted to do what she loved but there was always something mean spirited said against her. As he friendship with Vincent began to grow, she would also have setbacks because she was trying to figure out his mystery but in the end, the bond of going through this journey together, trumped the fact that AC cracked the case.

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It also shows that young girls can be whoever they want to be and how parents can guide them on their journey of discovering their identity. Bengston also used a lizard as AC’s conscience throughout the film and has she got deeper into the case, the lizard grew larger. She kept the lizard locked away and it symbolized her self-doubt in the back of her mind. It showed the dark corners of her mind, through the shading and colours used to design the lizard.

Agatha Christine: Next Door Spy is an animated film with so many important issues being addressed for womanhood. It has great animation, a strong character arc for AC and the value of developing a friendship. It was a long, fun journey to go on and it had some of the coolest gadgets for detective work. It will teach young children to fight for themselves and who they want to become.

The Assistant Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Assistant written and directed by Kitty Green is a slow burn film that shows a day in the life of a young girl working an entry level job. There is this constant anxiety and doubt from Jane (Julia Garner), while she attempts to work hard and prove herself in the workplace. It shows the mental/emotional abuse that young professionals endure when starting out in the industry and how troubling it could be to make certain decisions that could affect your position in the company.

Kitty Green wrote a simple script that showed a realistic work day from the perspective of an assistant. The pacing was very well done and it also showed how tedious and time consuming certain tasks were. It showed how organized everything had to be and how to conduct yourself in the workplace. When does your voice actually matter? This film brought me back to my office days and made me nervous all over again. It was like it struck a chord inside me and somehow made all of those emotional memories come to the forefront. As I was watching this, all of my worst number one hits, were flipping through my mind and bringing the same doubtful sensation that I remember feeling in those moments. I remember being nervous doing any work that was given to me, any phone calls I had to make or even emails I had to send, those moments made me doubt myself because I was afraid I would make a mistake.

Everyone wants to prove themselves in any industry and sometimes our perceptions are skewed, when it comes to stepping up that corporate ladder. The verbal abuse Jane receives from her boss on two separate occasions, was not normal workplace behaviour. She then received a rather unexpected email from her boss saying, “I’m hard on you because I’m going to make you great.” which changes Jane’s outlook entirely. At the end of the day, people need reassurance even if things seem bleak and they feel like everything is going wrong. It is also important to note that Jane takes this particular comment as a positive, when it’s actually really damaging to her self esteem and she doesn’t realize it.

The climax of this film was probably one of my favourite conversations on screen and Garner showed so much emotion when Jane decided to speak to her HR representative. This exchange was the most important moment in the film because it showed two different perspectives on how to navigate the industry in one conversation. As someone who is trying to break in and become a producer, doing the right thing and making a claim that could make or break your current status is not something that would be advised. However, Jane was simply trying to do the right thing by protecting her fellow woman, but in this case her job was on the line, if she attempted to file the complaint. That scene balanced morals and ambition in a candid way that does put both sides into perspective. Whether it is right or wrong, it is up to the viewer to decide.

The Assistant is very subtle in what it was trying to say but also made many valid points by showing them through the perspective of an assistant. The assistant hears everything and knows so much about everyone in the office, but they are never to speak of it at all. The ending of this film is well done because it showed Jane finally taking a moment for herself and remembering what was truly important. Hopefully when people watch this film, they can understand how difficult it is for anyone starting out and show them a bit of grace.