'Aline' review: Cracked Celine Dion bio deserves midnight movie status

Writer-director-star Valérie Lemercier takes on the life of Celine Dion in this truly odd biopic about the life of the singer.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Her name is not Celine Dion, it's Aline Dieu. If only that was the most baffling thing about "Aline," writer-director-star Valérie Lemercier's bizarro world homage to Dion, but the whole name thing is just a below-the-line technicality in relation to the grand weirdness Lemercier serves up in paying tribute to the French-Canadian pop goddess.

For starters, Lemercier plays Aline/Celine from age 5 into her 40s, and it's both jarring and disturbing — let alone wholly distracting — to witness an actress in her 50s playing a small child. She comes off like "Strangers With Candy's" Jerri Blank doing child cosplay, except she's not overtly joking, which in an oddly sincere way makes "Aline" the crazy, campy biopic the force of nature singer deserves.  

Valérie Lemercier in "Aline."

"Aline" traces Aline, or Celine, from her youth, growing up the youngest of 14 children in a small home just outside of Montreal, to pop mega-stardom, her Oscar win and her record-smashing Las Vegas residency. 

At the center of the tale is the romance between Aline and Guy-Claude Kamar (Sylvain Marcel), modeled after René Angélil, the record industry executive who discovered Dion when she was 12 and went on to become her manager and her husband. If you think that's a little bit creepy, you're right, and Aline's mother Sylvette (Danielle Fichaud) raises her objections, adding in insults about his girth whenever she gets the chance. But "Aline" plays their love story mostly straight, framing it as her decision made of sound mind, and does its best to leave the ickiness out of the picture. 

"Aline" is essentially a Lifetime original movie-level bio of Dion, and Lemercier honors her subject by effusively praising her accomplishments and never asking too many questions about what was going on in her head at any given time. There's a bit where, near the close of her Vegas stint, Aline-as-Celine goes outdoors for the first time and walks the sidewalks like an ordinary citizen. But until she mentions it, we're never told she had never done this before, and it seems like something that might have come up earlier in an exploration of her world.   

And yet, nope. Lemercier keeps an off-kilter tone throughout, advertently or inadvertently channeling the spirit of Tommy Wiseau, and there's a curious amount of scenes involving food, including one where Aline is in her dressing room heating up a cold dish using a hairdryer, which she calls, "Quebec style!" Maybe "Quebec style" is the best way to explain the entirety of "Aline," which only adds to its own strangeness by including several licensed songs from Dion. Lacking in insight but full of moxie, "Aline's" heart will go on. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Aline'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13: for some suggestive material and brief language

Running time: 126 minutes

In theaters