Review: Aline, The Voice of Love
- CANNES 2021: Valérie Lemercier draws loose inspiration from Céline Dion’s life to offer up a mainstream yet original biopic revolving around the artist’s incredible destiny and private life
"I’m not just a pop singer. I’m actually just a very ordinary woman". When Valérie Lemercier, known for her slightly offbeat comedies, revealed that she was embarking upon a biopic homing in on global superstar songstress Céline Dion and that she herself would be playing the titular role, the reaction was one of perplexity. As it turns out, we needn’t have worried because Aline, The Voice of Love [+see also:
film profile], which was presented out of competition at the 74th Cannes Film Festival, is actually a pleasant surprise which rather expertly sidesteps the trap of hagiography by loosely adapting the life of the Quebecker singer-songwriter, but also by charting the road travelled by Aline Dieu, thereby reinventing the woman behind the icon Céline Dion.
It all begins with an extraordinary family comprising 14 children, of whom Aline (born in 1968) is the youngest and all of whom make music. They form the Dieu orchestra who perform on stage and whose youngest member soon becomes their hugely popular mascot on account of her beautiful voice. At 12 years of age (after sending off demo tapes in the post), she is taken under the wing of producer Guy-Claude (Sylvain Marcel) who will mould "this rough diamond", chaperoned by her mother (Danielle Fichaud). From her first studio recording, her first television appearance ("you mustn’t come across as pretentious"), a certified platinum album and a concert in Paris ("songs are 45% of the show, you have to make them dream"), we move on to the next milestone: a huge breakthrough as a result of English and disco dancing lessons, not to mention dental work and the objective "to stop singing little girl’s songs."
At 17, the young woman lays her cards on the table ("I’d like to be an international star) and changes her look, but, above all, she "falls in love". The lucky guy (who didn’t seek it or encourage it in any way) is Guy-Claude, who’s in for a hiding from Aline’s mother ("you’ve betrayed my trust; her fans, the press, the public won’t be interested in a love story between an old man and a little girl). But Aline’s feelings win out and eventually result in a wedding. But fame doesn’t wash away all of life’s problems. For years, as her career takes her as far as the Oscars by way of Titanic, Aline tries desperately to fall pregnant. And then, by miracle, a baby arrives and, later, twins. The singer subsequently organises an exhausting professional life for herself in Las Vegas in order to achieve a reduced yet daily presence in her family’s lives. But tragedy strikes when Guy-Claude dies…
Chronicling this very real trajectory worthy of a fairy tale, Aline, The Voice of Love offers up just the right amount of humour and exposes the sacrifices an artist must make to fulfil her ambitions (three months of no talking in order to save her seriously endangered voice, for example). The director’s performance in the titular role is commendable, not least because she even plays (by way of special effects) the character of the little girl, never attempting mechanical imitation of her model, but instead creating her very own Aline. Well-judged in terms of temporal ellipses, the film is ultimately what it set out to be: a popular work about a simple woman who boasts an extraordinary gift, a romantic story and a rush of positive energy transcending life’s everyday ups and downs.
Aline, The Voice of Love is produced by Rectangle Productions and Gaumont (the latter are also steering international sales) in co-production with TF1 Studio Production, De l’Huile, Belgian firm Belga Fims and Canada’s Caramel Films.
(Translated from French)
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