April 21st, 2023
STARRING: KELVIN HARRISON JR., SAMARA WEAVING, LUCY BOYNTON, MARTON CSOKAS, RONKE ADEKOLUEJO
DIRECTED BY: STEPHAN WILLIAMS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
We don’t see enough movies like Chevalier these days and this soars above any standard story of a young Black man rising to prominence. This is about a man that was wrongfully wiped from the history of great artists and now gives Chevalier his due justice. Director Stephan Williams crafts a film with purpose and vigor. The story is about Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the son of a slave, rising in French society through his masterful talents in music, and his love affair with a woman of royalty. It’s a tale of courage, conflicted identity, and one man’s talent stepping into the spotlight after centuries of his whitewashed existence.
The lead performance from Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the title character is a breakthrough moment, revealing that The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Elvis star is a chameleon of performance. The narrative is on the shoulder of Joseph, following him in his complex existence. From his upbringing in higher French society, learning the violin, fencing, and a glimpse of life that most Black men or women would never see in the 18th century. It is an up-and-down story, his rise to prominence as Chevalier, and just how soon others are willing to dismiss him for the color of his skin.
As we follow along we see Joseph get his beginning as a friend to Queen Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) and his challenge to Christoph Gluck (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) to be the next composer of the French Opera House. In his pursuit of the position, he falls in love with Marie-Josephine (Samara Weaving), his opera singer, and muse, but also the wife of Marquis de Montalembert (Marton Csokas). Their love affair is passionate and risky, eliciting themes of Romeo & Juliet, in a world of French society, and music.
There are many excellent aspects of Chevalier to highlight- all of which start with the writing and direction from Williams- from the performances, sets, designs, and crafting of a much-assured production. The costumes are gorgeous as expected and the collective cast- outside of maybe Minnie Driver as the jealous opera singer- feels like they are stepping into new territory. The sexual tension between Weaving and Harrison is strong but Williams could have taken a page out of Scorsese’s work with The Age of Innocence and let the love affair warm up into a steamy sweat. It’s instead expressed in montages and brief moments.
That’s not to take away much from Chevalier, it still has an excellent final act, and a stellar collection of performances to walk away with. It’s a powerful story of revolution, love, the pain of being an artist at a certain time, tragedy, and rising above all obstacles of discrimination. This is a crowning achievement for Kelvin Harrison Jr. and breaks through old history books to tell the life of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges.
CHEVALIER IS CURRENTLY PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady