Kelvin Harrison Jr. takes the lead in director Stephen Williams’s new film Chevalier. This film is frequently entertaining while informing the audience of a forgotten musical genius, Joseph Bologne. Set in France in the late 1700s, Bologne was the illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner who exhibit an incredible musical talent. He impresses Marie Antoinette, played here by Lucy Boynton, and is granted the title of Chevalier. Bologne is ambitious, but society isn’t quite ready to allow him to rise any further.
Samara Weaving plays Marie-Josphine, and Bologne wants her to be the star of his opera. Her husband, Montalambert – portrayed by Marton Csokas – is not only against her joining this opera, but he dislikes Bologne completely. This becomes the central conflict of the film and works tremendously in large part because of the chemistry between Weaving and Harrison. Both are fighting for a voice in a time when neither women nor black people were being heard. There is clearly a connection there at first, but it only becomes stronger as they work together.
The biggest problem this film has is that its best sequence is at the beginning of the film. A concert is about to begin and the audience is told that Mozart is center stage. He’s speaking to the crows about the upcoming song, and a voice makes a request from the crowd. Mozart obliges – but before he can start the piece, that voice requests that he play along. Bologne enters the stage, and after some banter, the number begins. Not only is the song incredible, which probably goes without saying – but the camerawork and performances make it an incredible introduction to a tragically forgotten historical figure. However, people who watch this film will surely not forget Bologne’s name anytime soon.
While music is at the center of this story, it’s all of the things happening at the time with regard to the French Revolution that truly makes this story significant. Bologne doesn’t want to shake his already vicarious position further, but his friends are very much involved. The way his story plays out allows him to take a much more active role in the coming revolution. The film doesn’t feature much of that part of his story but rather acts as an introduction to the audience. It is through this movie that many people will become aware of a man whose accomplishments were almost completely erased by those he angered.
Chevalier is a very compelling story that features some beautiful production designs for its incredible actors to parade around in via equally exquisite costumes. Its visual beauty is then accentuated by an incredible score, making it a really solid movie. While there is a lull in the middle section, the beginning and end of the movie are both compelling and vital to behold.
Chevalier will be in theaters on April 21.
Rating: Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy.