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“I Am: Celine Dion” Review: You've Seen the Best of Me

“I Am: Celine Dion” Review: You've Seen the Best of Me

Disease shows no respect even for pop music's most revered figures

In “I Am: Celine Dion,” a documentary about the global singer on Amazon Prime Video, it quickly becomes clear that Dion can’t even move her body, let alone sing a soulful ballad with all the strength she has, since she was a teenager, has raked in millions. The film, from director Irene Taylor, records the singer’s painful reality as she battles the rare neurological condition called Stiff Person Syndrome.

In a December 2022 Instagram post, Dion tearfully revealed her diagnosis to fans, but by then the documentary was already in production. Taylor opens the film with relaxed scenes of Dion at her Las Vegas home with her children and staff. Then comes the part that’s painful to watch: You hear the singer groan as she has a seizure on the floor. Finding out early on that she’s always wanted to sing “my whole life” only heightens the tragedy of watching Dion, now 56, struggle to keep living that dream. Dion’s voice made her a star; this film is eager to make her a person.

But there’s nothing subtle about Taylor’s montages, like a high-energy cut to a past performance with the subdued domestic energy on display as Dion vacuums the couch. A shot pans to her eerily empty living room, a stark departure from playing to packed stadiums. The soundtrack hurts, too. All this palpable sadness is, perhaps, why Taylor inserts clips of Dion in better times.

I understand the tendency not to define Dion by her diagnosis. But Dion’s spontaneously expressive personality shines through her pain in raw footage that feels more connected to her recovery, like when her physical therapist badgers her about a cream she didn’t put on her feet. “Give me a break,” she says with playful exasperation.

Then she sings “Gimme a Break,” the Kit Kat commercial jingle. While that welcome touch of humor draws you into this intimately told story, what’s more Celine than an off-the-cuff voice? — unremarkable clips distract you from her: her late-night talk show impersonation of Sia; a snippet of her from her “Ashes” video that lets the Deadpool cameo go on too long; her career-defining ballad “My Heart Will Go On” but, oddly enough, the “Carpool Karaoke” version with James Corden.

These awkward segments undermine the powerful emotional tone of Dion’s testimony that transcends her circumstances. Especially when she lets the cameras roam, showing some of the darkest health-related scenes I’ve ever seen from an on-screen superstar.

“I think I've been really good,” Dion says of her career. After seeing a sequined costume of hers hanging in her house, her “era” is extremely honest. But when she sings during a studio session, she still does it. AND Very good. A final shot shows her as a starry-eyed teenager staring up at the stage lights. It's as if her younger self has something to say after all these years: that if not now, it might all come back to her soon.

The post “I Am: Celine Dion” Review: You've Seen the Best of Me appeared first on Generic English.

By Dayanne Phillip

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