REVIEW – “Chevalier”

When you think of classical musicians, the first names that come to mind are likely that of Mozart or Beethoven. However, one name that has been unjustly stripped from history and is just as revolutionary is that of Joseph Bologne, who was known professionally as Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Bologne was a revolutionary and a true artist who paved the way for so many – but unfortunately a large portion of his work was lost when slavery was reinstated through France in 1802. Luckily, a lot of his work has been rediscovered and preserved – leading for him to be now, rightfully, considered to be one of the pioneers of the classical era and the first dated black composer from that era. 

Stephen Williams’ Chevalier follows the life of Bologne as we mostly see his rise in fame and notoriety for both his skill and charm in Paris right at the cusp of the revolution. Chevalier is played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., who has made quite a name for himself at such a young age – between Luce, Waves, and Cyrano, he always delivers such dynamic and powerful performances. With Chevalier, I can absolutely say the same. Harrison is absolutely electric in the role and feels like he was truly born to play it. He exhibits the charm and brilliance of Bologne beautifully and intensely. Truly a magnificent performance. 

The portion of Bologne’s life that it focuses on is undeniably fascinating – to see him attempt to climb through the ranks with his undeniable skill, yet always seemingly and unjustly being in the shadow of fame, even though he so clearly deserves it. This makes Chevalier turn into more than just a standard biopic, as well as a fairly fascinating and potent exploration on that of racism, class warfare, and being exploited. A lot of this is shown through his relationships with Marie-Josephine (Samara Weaving), Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton), and Philippe (Alex Fitzalan) – all of which serve as different factions of these things Bologne has to face. From the exploitation met from Antoinette’s rule or the pending revolution that is always on the cusp with his friend Philippe or the romance between himself Marie-Josephine that has to be unfairly hidden – it all works in service to the larger themes that Williams is trying to convey. 

Williams and co. do a fairly solid job at exhibiting these themes, but it feels like the film is always on the cusp of greatness without ever truly excelling to that level. As previously stated, Kelvin’s performance is absolutely magnificent and the film looks and feels spectacular – but there does seem to be a bit of urgency missing from the pacing and screenplay that really could’ve injected it with more energy and passion. I wouldn’t say that the film feels like a typical Wikipedia copy-and-paste biopic, because there are clearly a ton of things it has to say aside from just telling Bologne’s story – but it could’ve used just a bit more energy to truly be a standout.

However, for what it is, the film is still a pretty entertaining and fascinating portrayal of one of the most influential figures in music history. The main goal here is clearly to try and inject Chevalier as a figure into the mainstream, and to help share his story – and for that, and the tremendous performance from Kelvin Harrison Jr., I think it’s absolutely a must-watch. 


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