Entertainment

The Mind Behind the Wild Céline Dion Semi-Biopic 'Aline' Explains Her Choices

Valérie Lemercier tells Thrillist why she wanted to play Céline Dion as a 5 year old.

Roadside Attraction
Roadside Attraction
Roadside Attraction

When Aline was announced as part of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival lineup last June, it immediately was the kind of thing you just had to see. An unauthorized biopic of Céline Dion directed by and starring a French comedian? Sounds pretty wild. What festival goers experienced exceeded expectations. The now-57-year-old Valérie Lemercier not only plays Aline Dieu, a very lightly fictionalized version of the Québécoise chanteuse, she plays Aline Dieu from childhood through adulthood. Not in a Boyhood kind of way-in a Clifford kind of way. Vanity Fair‘s Richard Lawson called it “one of the strangest approaches to a biopic I’ve yet seen.” The New York Times‘ Kyle Buchanan said it was “instantly iconic.”

Now you can finally see it for yourself when Aline hits theaters this weekend, and, frankly, Aline lives up to all the superlatives it’s received. A trip down the uncanny valley to a parallel universe where the singer of “My Heart Will Go On” is not quite herself, Lemercier has centered Aline around the love story between Céline and her late husband, René Angélil, called Guy-Claude in the film and portrayed by Sylvain Marcel. The fact that he began managing Dion when she was 12 before they coupled up when she was 20 is strange and uncomfortable enough, made stranger by the fact that here, the young Aline is played by a 50-something woman. “The first sequence on the bed, I said, ‘Don’t forget, we are 55 each,'” Lemercier says over Zoom. “I am three months older than the actor who plays Guy-Claude.”

To attempt to unpack what is destined to become a cult classic-but has also already won Lemercier France’s top acting prize, the César award-I spoke with the brain behind Aline.

Why make a movie about Céline Dion?

Lemercier first fell in love with Dion’s music thanks to the singer’s 1995 French language record D’eux, but it wasn’t until Angélil’s funeral that she started thinking about making a movie based on the woman’s life. “I saw, as millions of people did, René’s funeral on TV, and I was very touched by the new loneliness of singing,” she says. So she decided to make a movie. “I spent a lot of time, night and day, during months and months, watching, reading books about her, but also about Réne, about Mother, who was a very interesting character,” she says. “About also Canadian Québécoise culture.” Some of Dion’s siblings have taken issue with the way their family is portrayed. In Aline, the family is comically large and are stuffed into a tiny house. “The movie says how much I admire and love Céline and especially her family and career and everything,” Lemercier counters. Lemercier couldn’t use Dion’s real name, but it’s unmistakably the work of a fan. 

Why did Lemercier play Aline as a child?

Without the context of her career, Lemercier’s decision is baffling. With context, it makes a little more sense. Lemercier is best known in France as a stand-up comedian. In a way, this is like if, say, Amy Schumer decided to play Adele in a biopic called Claudele. Lemercier has a history of playing kids in her act, so this is not unusual. Lemercier explains that her face is not superimposed “on the baby body.” It’s all her. Occasionally, when acting against other adults, she is digitally shrunken. Other times, she is surrounded with oversized props as if she were Alice in Wonderland. “When I’m signing the records, they made a big records, I have a big pen,” she says. “When I’m singing, I have a big microphone.”

Her desire to play Aline from 5 through adulthood was based in an oddly empathetic reasoning even though she’s playing a child’s awkwardness for laughs. “I didn’t want to play only the glamorous singer,” she says. “I want to take a part of the growing pains of adolescence, which was my case when I was a small girl and people were laughing about my body, about my nose, about a lot of things.” Her analogy: “If I were a lawyer, I didn’t want to send my assistant to do the bad job.”

Roadside Attractions
Roadside Attractions
Roadside Attractions

And what about Céline Dion’s music?

You won’t hear some of the songs you probably most associate with Dion in Aline. There’s no “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” or “That’s the Way It Is.” But really the only song Lemercier mentions that she wanted that she couldn’t get the rights to was “The Power of Love.” She scored other tracks that Dion has performed, including French numbers like “Tellement j’ai d’amour pour toi” and covers like “River Deep, Mountain High.” “For me, each song was important to be a step in the love story,” Lemercier says. She was, however, surprised when her producer told her they could use “My Heart Will Go On,” which lead to a scene where Aline poo-poos the track before eventually signing on to perform it. “It’s true, that story,” Lemercier says.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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