Entertainment

A review of the fictional Celine Dion biopic Aline

Valerie Lemercier as Aline

Valerie Lemercier as A line
photo: Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films

celine Dion is a captivating powerhouse that has cemented her status as an international sweetheart over the past four years Decades consistently churning out love-soaked power ballads and more than a handful of bops. The courageous performer has met professional and devastating personal challenges with wit and wisdom, sustaining a marriage, a family, and career during this time. Unfortunately, its cinematic counterpart proves to be far less remarkable A line, a passionate but shallow unofficial biopic chronicling the superstar’s meteoric rise. Although director and star Valérie Lemercier treats her subject matter with absolute reverence (using her music, if not her name), the film itself lacks the poignancy and effortless virtuosity that the real Dion possesses to the utmost.

The French-language feature is framed by “Ordinaire,” a pensive, melancholy ballad that captures the psyche of a pop singer grappling with the conflict between her personal desires and public adoration. The meaning of the song matures and develops parallel to the story of the title character: Aline (Lemercier) grows up as the youngest of 14 children in a financially difficult situation from a strapped-down Quebec household who, as a toddler (played by either a “shrunken” Lemercier or a real-life child stunt double, depending on the setting), dominated the stage at her family’s eatery renowned band.

It is not until Aline’s tween years (again played by Lemercier) that her life changes dramatically when her supportive but cautious mother Sylvette (Danielle Fichaud) discovers the talents of her 12-year-old daughter with stringy hair, bad teeth, and crooked smiles should be shared with the world. Sylvette asks her eldest son to reach out to a fellow producer/talent manager, Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel), and catapult Aline into the arms of a music industry Svengali to chart a career path when she becomes an overnight sensation will. After gathering fans of all ages, she takes time off at Guy-Claude’s request to makeover and improve her dance and language skills. She then reveals her new, enhanced self to her soon-to-be lover in a campy, chilling scene that shifts the film’s focus from her career choices and individual empowerment to a regressive love story between this young superstar and a much older man.

Lemercier and co-writer Brigitte Buc, who together received a César nomination for best screenplay, framed their portrait primarily as a love letter to a couple who defied media gossip. But the film is not called Aline and Guy-Claude, and that shift betrays the more compelling story of a woman striving to fulfill two sometimes conflicting aspirations: a successful marriage and a supernova-like career. Consequently, Aline is primarily defined in the film by her relationship with the men in her life – starting with her husband but later having three sons, her father Anglomard (Roc Lafortune), and makeup artist Fred (Jean-Noël Brouté).

Worse is the fact that both main characters lack complexity. Although we at least get to know Aline through the adversity she faces with infertility and the many sacrifices she makes to repair her vocal cords, Guy-Claude’s defining quality is, aside from being able to relate to his much younger protégé amorouse is a heart condition. The film’s treatment of her career makes her, and thus the audience, a spectator of her achievements: business opportunities like Aline’s stay in Vegas or the opportunity to sing titanic‘s “My Heart Will Go On” seems to appear out of nowhere. And a telegraphed, cloying constructed finale seems to borrow more from the newer version of A star Is Born as Dion’s own life, the emotional impact of which is dramatically muted with artificial theatrics.

Then, of course, there’s the generous age difference between Aline and her husband, which is based on fact but presented in a way that raises more than a few questions about the practice – intentional or not – of nurturing young artists. Guy-Claude flatters himself with Aline big family, boosts her confidence about her looks, and then encourages her to change it under the guise of facilitating her career goals. Lemercier considers this a mostly comic source of conflict between Aline and her mother as the young singer (perhaps ironically) begins to achieve some independence from her family, but some viewers may squirm during these scenes instead of laughing.

Lemercier’s dedication as both performer and filmmaker is palpable, and despite some green-screen sequences and concert recreations where the budget has been cut, she displays a breezy visual dexterity with sequences like the one where Aline meets her baby for the first time shown in the abdomen in a pool. and then later at her stomach. She and cinematographer Laurent Dailland shoot the image with a wonderful playfulness that reflects the humorous, unflinching attitude of their fictional protagonist. And the crazy, surrealistic element of the first act in particular – the timing of which is rhythmically shaped by editor Jean-François Elie – is colorfully reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunets matched romance.

But Lemercier’s boldest decision is to portray Dion as a normal person She clings to her humble beginnings and still breathes that rare superstar air. This juxtaposition of the mundane and the great — helping Guy-Claude with his medication on a private plane, hiding her father’s gold coin in her shoe at the Oscars, or hoarding packets of sugar in high-end designer purses — is more hilarious than humanizing. Having your own Beyonce-esque “hot sauce in her pocket” storyline no doubt makes Celine Dion relatable to her fans, but A line‘s superficial glossy reading of this magnet dynamo belies their true superpowers.

https://www.avclub.com/aline-celine-dion-biopic-review-valerie-lemercier-1848739189 A review of the fictional Celine Dion biopic Aline

Andrew Schnitker

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