Chevalier review: A passable celebration of an extraordinary life

Chevalier revolves around the life of Joseph Bologne, the illegitimate son of a plantation owner and an African slave, who goes on to become the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The film is now streaming on Hulu.

Story

At a very young age, Joseph Bologne is taken away from his mother and sent to an academy in Paris to nurture his many talents. Joseph’s mother is a slave at his father’s plantation, and Joseph is their illegitimate son. 

Joseph grows up to be a very talented man, proficient at playing the violin and fencing, among other things. His talents impress Marie Antoinette so much that she anoints him the Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

He not only becomes Marie Antoinette’s close friend but also a member of the high society. As a renowned violinist and composer, Joseph now wishes to lead the Paris Opera, but for that, he must prove his worth and compete against one of Europe’s most reputed composers.

Joseph pursues his dream of holding the highest musical position in France, but it is not easy for a Black man. As a revolution begins in France, Joseph realizes that he has the choice to fight against injustice. 

Performances

As the protagonist, Kelvin Harrison Jr. is brilliant in this film. He gives a powerful performance, and that makes it seem like he is taking up all the space in every scene. He commands attention whenever he is on the screen.

Like Joseph, Samara Weaving’s character is also talented, but Weaving’s portrayal of Marie-Joséphine is very different from Harrison’s portrayal of Joseph. She is witty, graceful, delicate, yet strong. Weaving does justice to Marie-Joséphine’s character.

Finally, Lucy Boynton, who plays Marie Antoinette, is just as great as her costars. She goes from being Joseph’s friend to an anxious queen whose position is in danger, and she makes it look effortless.

Positives

The film begins with Joseph showcasing his talent. This scene uses a well-known figure like Mozart to convince the audience of Joseph’s genius at the very beginning. It not only catches the audience’s attention but also allows the film to focus on Joseph’s story instead of establishing his brilliance.

Similarly, Marie-Joséphine’s introduction is also fascinating. The audience gets to see her from Joseph’s perspective, and the film successfully makes that scene captivating enough that the audience will immediately get interested in her character.

The film does not sugarcoat anything. There are plenty of racial slurs used for shock value, and they do leave an impact. The fact remains that despite his talents and title, Joseph is still denied what he deserves because of his race.

Furthermore, through Joseph’s story, the film highlights how people of color have tried to change themselves to be more like their oppressors in order to be accepted, which is how people’s cultural identities are lost.  

In the film, the costumes and sets are simply beautiful. They encapsulate the glamour of the Parisian high society of the eighteenth century and certainly make the film more attractive.

There are some amazing scenes in the film that juxtapose art with violence, like the last scene. The ending is impactful, as it interchanges Joseph and Marie Antoinette’s fates — due to the revolution, Marie Antoinette will now be subjected to violence, while the music empowers Joseph, who will be remembered in history. 

Negatives

Rulers like Napoleon tried to erase Joseph Bologne’s story from history, but they were not entirely successful. The film tells the story of such a man, but it fails to make it unique. The depiction of the story of a man as extraordinary as Joseph Bologne should not lack innovation. 

Additionally, the film gets dull at times. Joseph has his ups and downs, so there is enough drama, but it is not always as engaging as it should have been. 

Verdict

Chevalier is a film that celebrates a man who deserves to be remembered. It is successful in its attempt, as the film will certainly make the audience want to know more about Joseph Bologne.

Chevalier
Chevalier review: A passable celebration of an extraordinary life 1

Director: Stephen Williams

Date Created: 2023-06-16 21:20

Editor's Rating:
3.5

Also Read: Chevalier summary and ending explained

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