Synopsis: The youngest of a hardworking French-Canadian couple’s 14 children is propelled to global music superstardom in this fictional musical dramedy, freely inspired by the life of Céline Dion.
Stars: Valérie Lemercier, Sylvain Marcel, Danielle Fichaud, Roc LaFortune, Antoine Vézina, Jean-Noël Brouté
Director: Valérie Lemercier
Running Length: 128 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: I remember the exact moment I heard there was a movie gathering buzz ahead of its debut at Cannes inspired by the life of everyone’s favorite power chanteuse, Céline Dion. I was listening to a podcast, and the words “Céline,” “Dion,” and “biopic” were said, and I blacked out. When I came to, there were some brief details mentioned that I didn’t entirely take in fully, something about how the star was playing the role, but it was mostly centered on the snark being directed toward the just-released trailer for Aline. I didn’t even wait for the podcast to end. This news was too important to delay. I gathered my wits, set myself up in front of my crystal clear 4K OLED TV, and fired up YouTube to watch Aline’s first look.
I’m one of those who needs a little bit of time to take in something the first time I see it. I find it challenging to blurt out complete declarative statements right away; I need to get a few more views under my belt. With Aline, I knew, I just knew, that it was going to be my kind of film. As strange as the approach to telling Dion’s life is, not to mention how plum cuckoo, its method of execution winds up being, leave your preconceived notions at the door. This film is a case where no preamble descriptor can fully prepare you for an energy wave that hits you when the movie begins. That same jet force carries you for the next 128 minutes until a finale that had me on my feet.
There was no way Dion or her team would allow a movie based on her life to be made without some strong arm of control, so famous French star Valérie Lemercier decided to go a different route. Using Dion’s life as a muse and taking on the structure of a standard biopic, Lemercier and co-writer Brigitte Buc have wound up with a condensed tale of a natural-born talent’s rise to fame. In Aline, we watch her humble roots as one of 14 children born to a family of gifted musicians to becoming a worldwide celebrity selling out shows for years in Las Vegas. Along the way, the singer (here called Aline Dieu) falls in love with her manager Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel), attends the Oscars, yearns for children, and struggles to free herself from an image imposed on her by an opinionated mother and a demanding fanbase.
Sounds pretty average, right? Ah, but wait. We haven’t gotten to the exciting twist yet. Here’s the hook that director, co-writer, and star Valérie Lemercier uses that is throwing some potential views off. The adult Lemercier (58 as of this writing) portrays Aline at every stage of life, from childhood to the present. Through a mixture of effects, costumes, and old-fashioned movie magic, many of these moments are convincingly done, even when she’s playing a small child. To answer your question, yes, it does take a bit to get used to its weirdness. You can tell it’s an adult playing a child, but the vision of Lemercier’s de-aged face on a small body somehow works all the same. The more I accepted it, the easier I found myself giving over to other aspects of the film that also colored outside the lines of an expected Dion biopic.
Favorite moments of Dion’s life are created, but only just so. There’s her big Oscar moment singing the theme song from Titanic, but on a much less regal scale. Dion’s hit songs are played throughout, with Victoria Sio providing the singing voice, but not all are presented in chronological order. So, you have a song playing at her wedding that hadn’t been written yet and other anomalies that keep the film hovering at that high concept fantasy level (and likely out of reach for Dion’s lawyers), which helps propel the movie forward. It’s only at the top of the last thirty minutes, when Lemercier and Buc add a completely fictionalized scene in Vegas, that the film loses some of its charms, albeit briefly.
Lemercier surprised many recently when she won the Best Actress award at the 47th Annual César Awards, France’s highest honor in acting. Suddenly, the film that started as a joke on a podcast was getting the respect it honestly deserves. Considering all that Lemercier has put into the film and turning in a deeply committed, sincere, and overall, just damn well-acted performance, she’s already riding high on my best of the year list. It’s a performance that sticks with you long after the film has finished…and what a note to go out on. The finale is so simple but filled with the power most movies only imagine they could muster that late in the game. If you made it to that point and weren’t knocked out by her work, I don’t know how you couldn’t be convinced by what she does in those few minutes.
I’m excited this is finally out for more people to see because Aline is a movie that will thrive as more viewers have the opportunity to discover it. If there is any justice, Lemercier’s name can stay on the forefront of people’s minds for the next nine months and gain her awards consideration on our shores because it’s the type of gutsy work that should be recognized. Don’t miss this one. If you’re on the fence, hop on off and take a look – you’ll be happy you did. As Dion herself sang…”What do you say to taking chances?”