Once in a while – it’s rare, but it does happen! – a movie is coming that is just an absolute gift of absurdity and fun from start to finish. Head-scratching abounds, but damn if not a good time from its opening moments through the final credits. Walk in A line, a film that has absolutely no reason to exist and yet blesses us with its 128 minutes of pure campiness as it revels in the life, career and over-the-top ways of Quebec vocal powerhouse Celine Dion . Written (with Brigitte Buc), directed and performed by Valérie Lemercier, César award-winning actress (including, marvelously, for this role!), A line makes it clear from an opening text card that the movie is inspired by life and work of Celine Dion, but is not intended to be superstar history.
This, then (if I may) is something like the meat beyond the movies, something that’s meant to be as similar to the real deal as possible, but with ingredients and manufacturing wrapped in secret, is actually just a glorified impostor, one that is nonetheless happily digestible if not equally satisfying.
Do we need more of a review than that? Maybe not, but I just can’t resist.
Dion’s life story (at least for those of us who spent our teenage years repeating all the titles of The color of my love) is relatively well known, from his modest upbringing as the baby of a very large family (14 siblings!) to his relationship with manager (and eventual husband) René Angélil to his epic discography including best-selling single from 1998, “My Heart Will Go On. Dion is charisma personified, his passion, energy and stage presence are as much a part of his appeal as his unrivaled voice. There are certainly plenty of stories to be told here in a film. in fact, there are probably ten films to be made, each chapter of Dion’s journey is worth its own.
Instead, Lemercier (bless his heart) decides to do it. everything in this film. Like EVERYTHING, and it’s glorious.
First, a small aside: for the sake of clarity, I will now refer to Lemercier’s characters. Although rest assured, its screenplay directly follows Dion’s life, from the demo tape his older brother sent to Angélil (here, Guy-Claude Kamar, played by Sylvain Marcel) in 1980 to a tearful interview Dion gave in 1992 when she admitted to being in love but didn’t know with whom (again, Angélil – 26 years her senior) at a legendary performance at the Oscars with a replica of the huge “Heart of the Ocean” diamond on a dress smooth black.
A line begins even before there is an Aline; it is the parents Sylvette (Danielle Fichaud) and Anglomare Deiu (Roc Lafortune) that we meet first, because they are getting married and he affirms that he would like a life between them, able to come and go as they please. Skip to the first cut of the film, baby after baby being born into an ever-growing family and a now much older Sylvette finally welcomes baby Aline, who sleeps in a dresser drawer to save space. Aline is only small for a few brief scenes; Before long, Lemercier took over as the golden-voiced child, this 58-year-old woman playing a 12-year-old girl. The framing of some scenes around the family dinner table is just silly, try how the filmmakers could make Lemercier look tiny and childish in a room full of adults.
From there, the film unfolds in the blink of an eye, as Guy-Claude decides to bank on Aline’s talents and the young girl is soon singing on Canadian television and causing a stir with every audience that sees her. sees. Soon she was performing abroad, recording albums and falling in love with her manager and, almost imperceptibly, Lemercier became a young woman, then a wife and a mother. The film avoids being too specific about its timeline, opting not to place years or other contextual cues onscreen, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s the roller coaster of a lifetime, and Lemercier let us know from the first ascent of that big hill that we better buckle up and hang in there for what’s to come.
The only aspect of A line Beyond its overloaded narrative is its explosive cast, with each of the film’s supporting characters doing their best to keep up with Lemercier. It is often assumed that an actor does a better job of portraying a real person by striving to inhabit the role rather than imitate it. Lemercier, God forbid, throws such a heavy-handed, unamusing approach completely out the window, shamelessly upping the drama in his portrayal of this version of Celine Dion. It’s a performance as odd as it is confusing, sometimes oddly Dion-ish, then not at all. That the film is relatively devoid of close-ups of the actress, shots that would remind us that this is just a fake of the real thing (from cubic zirconia to a pressed diamond?), is certainly not not a mistake at Lemercier. realization.
Perhaps most surprising is the fact that the film crew paid the necessary sum to license Dion’s catalog of songs, with her music making up not only the scenes where she performs, but also the film’s soundtrack. Fortunately, Lemercier does not sing either; which is left to a woman named Victoria Sio, a woman who handles sound as impressive as Dion herself, I’ll give that to the movie. Lemercier’s lip synchronization, on the other hand? Well, let’s not talk about it. What the actress manages is every over-the-top mannerism, every iconic slant in a big note and bust for dramatic effect. Nobody can say that she does not give all this role of her life.
A line isn’t exactly good by any definition of the word, but it’s endlessly watchable and beyond entertaining, perhaps in ways the filmmaker never even intended. Lemercier only got the idea for the movie while promoting her latest, answering a reporter’s question about her next project by casually saying she might do a Celine Dion movie. For my part, I will be eternally grateful to this journalist, because he was the catalyst for what has become this gift to cinema, something both wonderfully ridiculous and divinely well-intentioned. A Beyond Burger is never as delicious as the real thing, but sometimes that’s just what we need most.
A line is now in theaters.
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