Metacritic (5/10), Letterboxd (2.5/5), Imdb.com (5/10)
Imagine a prime time soap opera with 18th Century French period piece trappings, and you’ve pretty much got the gist of this fact-based (and loosely so, I understand), underwhelming offering from filmmaker Stephen Williams, a director best known for his acclaimed cable TV series work (which is probably why this release feels so much more like a television piece than a movie). The picture presents the biography of Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an acclaimed multiracial violinist and composer who rose through the social ranks to attain a celebrated place in the court of Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) in pre-revolutionary France. But, rather than focusing on Bologne’s accomplishments (many of which have been lost over time but are allegedly traceable), the film instead tells the scandalous (for the time) tale of a failed interracial romance and its fallout, a story that deeply affected him personally and changed the artist into an advocate for society’s downtrodden (noble ambitions that, regrettably, receive short shrift in the film). While all of this should provide the makings of a captivating watch, much of it falls dreadfully flat – a collection of pretty images populated with arrogant, elegant aristocrats casting knowing glances and wry smiles but not providing significant fodder for viewer engagement. Such blandness even spills over into the performances, like that of protagonist Harrison, an actor whose work I generally admire but who comes across here to be about as interesting as a bowl of lukewarm porridge. To me, it seems like so much more could have been done with this story, but what comes from it here is stunningly uninteresting and uninvolving, a disappointment given that Bologne deserves better than this.