Greetings again from the darkness. Ana Gasteyer’s “Saturday Night Live” parody of Celine Dion not-so-humbly announcing herself as “the greatest singer in the world” was brilliant sketch comedy and good for a hearty laugh. All these years later, filmmaker Valerie Lemercier cast herself as the lead in this unofficial biopic “inspired by” the story of Celine Dion. It’s a fictionalized account co-written with Brigitte Buc that sticks to the real story in some parts, while also being a bit creepy and serving up a quasi-horror film sensation in others. You might ask, “How can the story of Celine Dion” have anything to do with horror?”, and well the answer is that Ms. Lemercier (a woman in her 50’s), plays the fictionally named Aline Dieu at ALL ages (thanks to some CGI). Seeing that face on the young girl peering up at her family on stage is as creepy and discomforting as any screen image we will see this year.
It’s no accident that Lemercier’s character is named Dieu, which is French for God. She clearly worships the real Ms. Dion, and this is intended as a loving tribute to the singer. Aline Dieu is the 14th child born into a French-Canadian family. Many of the family members perform as a singing act … think The Osmonds or the Cowsills, and Aline is still young when her amazing vocal talent is discovered and becomes a featured part of the performances. Her headstrong mother, Sylvette Dieu (played by Danielle Fichaud), is very protective of her youngest child and is involved as the family contacts a well-known talent manager named Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel).
Aline becomes a teenage singing sensation, and of course, later becomes an international icon, especially after singing the TITANIC (1997) song, “My Heart Will Go On”. The film tracks the meteoric rise of her career, but as in real life, much of the focus is on the relationship between Aline and Guy-Claude (obviously the stand-in for Rene Angelil). They first met when she was 12, and despite the 26-year age gap, a love developed that resulted in marriage years later (when she was of legal age). Aline’s mother’s reaction to this relationship was disgust – in a funny kind of way. She felt her princess deserved better than “an old prune”. We also learn of Aline’s vocal cord scare, the couple’s initial struggles to have kids, and how he focused on the business side to protect her … a cause he remained devoted to because of his heart condition. A big part of this was the infamous Las Vegas residency, which has since been copied by many artists.
Despite the success and brilliant artistry, there is a certain sadness to a woman who seemed quite isolated from everything but her family. This point is driven home when she admits to never have seen the city where she’s been performing, and the fact that she seems to have no friends outside of her makeup artist Fred (Jean-Noel Broute). Ms. Lemercier does a fine job capturing the various looks and style over the years, and her movements on stage are spot on. She lip-syncs to the familiar songs … sung not by Celine, but rather Victoria Sio. The movie will likely work best for fans of Celine Dion, while others may not recover from the Act I creep factor.
Opening in theaters on April 8, 2022