Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

We need to talk about the bizarre, unauthorized Celine Dion biopic

57-year-old actor Valérie Lemercier plays a fictionalized version of the singer at multiple ages—including 5 and 12

That’s not a 12-year-old, that’s a 57-year-old woman pretending to be 12
That’s not a 12-year-old, that’s a 57-year-old woman pretending to be 12
Screenshot: Leroy/Rectangle Productions/TF1 Films Production

A few times a year, a new music legend gets their own biopic. We’ve seen enough to know that they all follow a nearly identical narrative of how the artist went from being a nobody to a star, complete with that magical moment in the studio where it all seemingly instantly came together, sprinkled with some sex and tragedy. But the unauthorized Celine Dion biopic that premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday said “fuck conformity” and decided to go a very strange route.

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You might be asking yourself “So what could be so weird about a Celine Dion biopic?” Turns out a lot. First of all, given how it’s unauthorized, the film pulls a Jackie Jormp-Jorp. It’s called Aline, and it’s about a singer named Aline Dieu who just happens to have the same life story as the iconic Canadian singer—including falling in love with the much-older manager who she met as a preteen. But let’s get to the truly “WTF” aspect of it: 57-year-old director, producer, and star Valérie Lemercier plays Aline at multiple stages of the character’s life. We haven’t seen the film yet, but the trailer makes the age thing look downright unsettling.

The trailer spares us from getting to see Lemercier play a 5-year-old, because people still need to shell out on the movie out of sheer curiosity. But we do get to see Lemercier as a 12-year-old. It’s utterly strange. Her face looks very grown up (with wrinkles digitally removed), but her body’s made to look more petite compared to the adults onscreen. It gives the vibes of an adult passing herself off to be a child in a horror movie.

Don’t worry, Lemercier is fully in on the joke. The actor, who Variety Executive Editor Ramin Setoodeh dubbed “the Kristen Wiig of France,” didn’t want to make a serious biopic. The actor is also known for playing characters who are children, so it somehow works—to the extent that the film received a five-minute standing ovation at Cannes. But as The New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan wrote in his review, “practically speaking, that means we’re watching a 57-year-old play a 12-year-old with a crush on her 40-year-old manager. I just don’t know what to do with any of that! Every time Aline’s mother tries to sever the union, declaring that Guy-Claude is far too old for Aline, I felt like my brain was short-circuiting.” But it all works in the movie’s favor, because now nobody can stop talking about it.