By Mark Fields
If Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges hadn’t actually existed, Hollywood would have had to invent him. But improbably, he did exist, and Chevalier is the movie about his life. The illegitimate son of a French-Caribbean plantation owner and an enslaved African woman, Joseph rose to the heights of Paris society and the court of Marie Antoinette as an accomplished swordsman, classical composer, and man of acclaim. Blessed with incredible skills as well as a charming demeanor, Joseph seems to overcome the racism and classism of the society around him…until they predictably rise up to bring him down. (His music, forgotten until recently thanks to the same racism, is truly lovely and worth a listen.) Kelvin Harrison Jr. portrays the Chevalier with confidence and charisma. Samara Weaving is appealing as his paramour and musical protégé, Marie Josephine. Stephen Williams, an Emmy-winning TV director making his feature debut, keeps the movie well-paced amid its gorgeous costumes and scenery. Devotees of period dramas will find familiar rhythms to the story, but the unusual protagonist at its center makes for a fresh perspective.