‘Aline’ Review: Tale as Odd as Time

The best compliment one can give the French serio-comic filmmaker Valérie Lemercier’s “Aline,” a biopic of Celine Dion in which Lemercier plays a fictionalized version of the pop star from infancy through widowhood, is that it evokes the disorientation of discovering the singer as she was on her first album: a 13-year-old with snaggleteeth. The movie’s passion is incredible — but, boy, is it embodied in something awkward.

There is barely time to adjust to the sight of the adult Lemercier shrunken through cinematic trickery to the size of a child before we’re forced to grapple with the dawning awareness that this tribute is intended to be heartfelt. “Aline” is no prank, even though the cinematography is as static as a Saturday Night Live skit. The director and her co-writer, Brigitte Buc, whisk through Dion’s timeline with efficiency. Lemercier observes the singer, here renamed Aline Dieu, as she shifts from ballads belted to her mother (Danielle Fichaud) to ones aimed at her Svengali and husband-to-be (Sylvain Marcel), who is sincerely presented as her one great love. Lemercier trots out Dion’s famous outfits and interviews, her 1998 Academy Awards performance of “My Heart Will Go On” and, when the action shifts to Dion’s Las Vegas residencies, does a quite good job imitating the star’s coltish, unpredictable dance moves.

All “Aline” needs is a point. The closest thing to one is Lemercier’s insistence that Dion wasn’t simply a larger-than-life icon but a mortal, too, with relatable worries about her children, her sleep schedule and, er, getting lost in her 40-room mansion. To this end, in a film crammed with covers (splendidly sung by Victoria Sio), Lemercier opens and closes with “Ordinaire,” the Robert Charlebois song: “I am not a circus freak,” her star sings, adding, “I’d like to be understood.”

Aline
Rated PG-13 for grace notes of sexual situations and language. Running time: 2 hours 8 minutes. In theaters.

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