Film Review: ‘Aline’4 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
The youngest of a hardworking French-Canadian couple’s 14 children is propelled to global music superstardom.
Director: Valérie Lemercier
Cast: Valérie Lemercier, Sylvain Marcel, Danielle Fichaud, Roc LaFortune, Antoine Vézina, Pascale Desrochers
Runtime: 126 minutes
There has been an exciting line-up of films for this year’s French Film Festival. As part of its ‘Music in Cinema’ section, the festival features critically-acclaimed film Aline, which received a 5-minute standing ovation during its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
As an unofficial biopic of Céline Dion, Aline gives us a glimpse into the life of the legendary singer as well as the relationship she had with her husband. Relying on her gifts for comedy, director and lead actress Valérie Lemercier gives us a fun, memorable and energetic pick-me-up film.
Inspired by the life of Dion, Aline follows the life and career of its not-so-fictional protagonist, Aline Dieu (Valerie Lemercier). Starting out in a small home as the youngest of 14 children in Quebec, Aline’s life is forever transformed after meeting music producer, Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel), who discovers her talent for singing — Guy-Claude is the stand-in for Dion’s real-life husband and producer-manager René Angélil.
With his support, Aline goes on to become an overnight singing sensation. Gradually, Aline and Guy-Claude start to catch feelings for each other while going on tour. In spite of her mother’s (Danielle Fichaud) disapproval, Aline eventually decides to pursue a romantic relationship with Guy-Claude.
While Aline highlights the difficulties faced by our main character Aline, including the resistance she faced wanting to get into a relationship with Guy-Claude, it manages to not take itself too seriously. Cheesy, over-the-top scenes poke fun at their relationship and stellar comic performances by Lemercier and Fichaud keep the film’s tone upbeat and buoyant. Energetic stage performances are also inserted at the right moments to pick up the pace. The film keeps its focus on building Guy-Claude and Aline’s love life, and more so, the significance of Guy-Claude in Aline’s life (or Rene Angelil for Dion for that matter).
Featuring Dion’s hits such as “River Deep, Mountain High”, “Let’s Talk About Love” and “Ordinaire”, as well as extravagant sets that recreate Dion’s massive Floridian villa, Lemercier allows us to almost seamlessly step into Dion’s life of luxury. With heavy investment in hair, make-up and costume design (including a recreation of Dion’s stage outfit for her 1998 Oscar performance of “My Heart Will Go On”), she also undoubtedly makes for a convincing Dion in the second half of the film.
That said, and indeed what is controversial, is Lemercier’s stylistic choice in the first half of the film. In depicting the life of young Aline, instead of having a regular child actress, the face of 57-year-old Lemercier was digitally edited onto the body of a child. In other words, Lemercier also plays Aline at ages 5 and 12. And, spoiler alert, it was in no way convincing.
In a scene where the whole Dieu family can be seen at their small dining table, Aline being at the centre of the conversation for her rising popularity, she looks visibly older than all the thirty-something siblings sitting around her. Those scenes could be a little unnerving to watch. Although it was quite bizarre watching an older Lemercier play young Aline, this, in some ways, complemented the film’s lighthearted tone. Overall, Aline is a fun watch, not only as a comedy but also as a quasi-musical and even a semi-cult film.
Aline will be screened to a sold-out theatre tomorrow as part of the French Film Festival 2021 before making its wide release at Shaw Theatres on 2 December.