Aline: That’s the Way It Is, by David Bax
Please don’t let yourself get played the way that I did. Don’t be fooled by headlines promising that Valérie Lermercier’s Aline “has to be seen to be believed.” Sure, the one weird thing about it–director/co-writer/star Lermercier plays the title character, a lightly fictionalized version of Celine Dion, from ages 5 to 50, using things like forced perspective and superimposition to make her look like a child except with an adult woman’s face–is very weird indeed. Early scenes cause the mind to rebel at how wrong it all looks to the point that the only option is to laugh. That doesn’t mean it has to be seen, though. The novelty wears off, Aline grows older and what we’re left with, after a few minutes’ worth of oddness that you’ll someday be able to view as a YouTube compilation, is the most boring (sorta) biopic since 2020’s Stardust.
Early on, Lermercier appears to be setting the stage in such a way that you’ll find the prospect of her playing a five-year-old less objectionable by adopting a comedic tone. The backstory of her family and how they came to already have thirteen children before Aline is born is told with jaunty whimsy. But that stops immediately once the film is able to focus on the (not technically) Celine Dion story.
Aline is not some outsider artist passion project or whatever those misleading articles referenced above want you to assume. Lemercier has been directing movies professionally for 25 years. And that’s just the way this one looks: Professional. It’s shiny and finished-looking but not exactly artful.
It’s just as workmanlike in the way it dispatches with Celine’s, I mean Aline’s, life story. The film may run over two hours but that’s not much time to try to relay the entirety of a nearly half century career. It skims through the bullet points at a bewildering pace. At one point, a character mentions receiving a text and I thought for a second it was an anachronism until I remembered I had no fucking clue what year it was supposed to be.
If there is a passion driving Aline, it is one of unwavering support and unwarranted defensiveness of Celine Dion. There is nothing untoward about Aline’s marriage to a man she met when she was 12 and he almost 40. There is no wavering in her devotion to her family. Everything Aline does is motivated by love; for music, for her children, for her husband… As sappy and one-dimensional as it all is, though, I can’t deny that Lemercier sells it.
That’s because, as it turns out, she’s a good actor. So is Sylvain Marcel, who plays Aline’s husband. It would actually make the movie more noteworthy if they weren’t. One bizarre choice can’t derail an otherwise homogenously competent, unremarkable film. So, no, you don’t have to see Aline. Believe me.