OK, so stop me if you’ve heard this one before. It’s a biopic about a legendary musician, but their name is never used. The life story is the same, as are the thematic beats, but it’s not technically about that person. Film does this a lot for various legal reasons. See the Todd Haynes movie Velvet Goldmine, which is about as close to a David Bowie biopic as we’ll get, even though it never played a second of his music (sorry not sorry, Stardust.) But here’s where things get weird: It’s a musical biopic that includes the artist’s songs but not their name.
Meet Aline Dieu. It’s Celine Dion but not really. But it’s her. But her name is Aline. Am I making sense?
Aline stars (and is also written and directed by) Valérie Lemercier, and if you know even the slightest thing about Dion, every beat in this trailer will ring bells in your ears. It’s her origin story, from being the youngest sibling in a large Quebecois family to being managed by a music executive who she ends up marrying as an adult, even though they met when she was 12 and he was her boss.
I have to give credit to Lemercier for nailing Dion’s goofy on-stage charisma, especially her stances (although I don’t think the people of Quebec will be wild about that accent work.) There’s an obvious line of camp running through this trailer, such as the full Vegas-esque wind machine that kicks in when she opens to door to reveal her make-over to the guy who totally isn’t René Angélil.
The trailer is really playing up the romance between the two here, with Aline proudly declaring her love for her manager and being shown as the instigator of their relationship. Dion has always insisted that she was the one who came onto Angélil, to whom she was married for 22 years until his death in 2016. Even if you’re really supportive of Celine, surely it’s going to be pretty hard to swallow a totally glowing portrayal of that dynamic? It’s a Choice, I’ll say that.
The whole trailer is fascinating, if nothing else. Dion would have had to sign off on the music. It’s not like the film is making Aline sing nothing but covers, although it would have been one way to avoid potential copyright issues given that Dion’s done a lot of very popular covers. But those are Dion songs. ‘I’m Alive’ was written for her! So they decided to make a very traditional biopic, detail the most notable and talked-about aspects of their subject’s life, pay for the music, make the whole thing super polished, then… just not call it Celine? I have to assume there’s a legal barrier in place or something but I honestly haven’t the foggiest.
And the whole thing is clearly pro-Celine and her relationship with Angélil! The creative upside of making a biopic without the subject’s involvement is that you’re not beholden to their bullsh*t whims or demands of historical rewrites (hi, Bohemian Rhapsody). Yet they’re doubling down on that super-messy part HARD.
Did I mention that this film will be premiering out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival?
I don’t know what’s happening and I’m confused by it all but I’m also already far too committed to seeing where this goes.
Header Image Source: YouTube // UniFrance