Aline (Film Review): Anomalous Céline Dion Tribute
Aline is a biopic freely inspired by the life of Celine Dion that’s, in most cases, on the brink of becoming an intentional farce.
To be completely honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Céline Dion’s discography. She’s one of those artists that I respect more than I actually like. There are a couple of tracks that I enjoy, and she does have some classic records like “My Heart Will Go On” or “The Power of Love”, but overall, I’m not that into it. One aspect I do admire greatly is her vocal pitch and range. There aren’t many singers that could have such powerful and technically skilled vocals. She has a legendary status in the music world, and like many artists in such stature, a biopic would happen in due time. And it has, for better or worse, thanks to Valérie Lemercier, who stars, directs, and writes the film inspired by the life of the Canadian singer-songwriter. The characters, places, and some of the facts were modified to keep the filmmakers’ vision. I think a Stardust (2020) scenario happened, where the estate didn’t approve the film and didn’t grant some of the rights; however, I might be wrong. Aline may follow some of the same biopic beats, but it has moments where you don’t know if it’s a spoof or not.
It begins with a shot of our main character in the present day, living a lavish life, but what we don’t know is that she’s dealing with grief in that particular moment. It later cuts to the parents’ first meeting and their many births afterward, which is intertwined with musical moments as a family. After a couple of minutes introducing them, we get to meet Aline (Valérie Lemercier), to whom music, family, and love mean more than anything in the world, through one of the weirdest and most uncomfortable mechanisms imaginable: Lemercier’s face is digitally transplanted onto a young child’s body.
This, along with other previous circumstances, begins my speculation that it may be a farce due to how things are handled. It feels too comedic for its own good, yet it feels like every actor is in on the joke. The movie follows Aline’s career from her early days as a teenage pop icon to the international phenomenon she is in the present. We also see how she falls in love with her successful manager, Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel), who is doing everything he can to make her a star.
One of the best ways to describe Aline is a car crash: you just can’t help but look at what happened. It even received several “what did I just watch” reviews from the Cannes 2021 audience. For what it’s worth, I can truthfully tell you that I was entertained full and through the first half of the picture and its ridiculous self. Not everything was working, and it had a cheesy soap opera sensibility, but I had my eyes glued to the screen.
During that first half, you are both laughing with it and at it, beginning with the fact that Lemercier had the gall and temerity to cast herself as the lead, from ages five to fifty. It’s hard to take seriously with its risible demeanor. Yet, you feel like the witticisms are on purpose – intentionally causing an awkward and “so bad it’s actually entertaining” biopic that may even reach cult status one day. But I must give credit where credit is due: Lemercier chews the scenery for all she’s worth and causes the viewer to actually go along for the ride and care for the Celine character.
However, like most of these types of approaches to film, it runs out of steam once the second half arrives. From that point on, the jokes are less effective and comical. It goes through the by-the-book approach of a biopic instead of staying with its initial caricature-esque direction. And it’s genuinely disappointing to see it fall flat like that. These kinds of stories about celebrities are rarely made in an off-the-wall bonkers sort of way.
There are still a few jokes in its narrative (the sad blue face in the negative pregnancy test or the lip-synced live performances), yet they don’t have that absurd behavior that the ones in the first half had. It’s almost a tale of two halves: the first is the one you didn’t expect and are still weirdly glad to see, and the second is the one you initially feared it would be, since it follows the biopic set of rules. Nonetheless, you see that Lemercier wanted Aline to work out completely, so props to her for sticking with her guns and keeping the show afloat for as long as it stands. The real question now stands: what does Céline Dion think of this picture?
Aline will be released in US theaters by Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films on April 8, 2022.