This week’s roundup features a trio of new films opening in theaters: “Aline,” a strange Céline Dion biopic; “Mothering Sunday,” an intimate glimpse at a famous writer’s personal tragedies; and “The Rose Maker,” the sweet but not saccharine story of a small-time horticulturist and the convicts who work with her.
In-Theater Releases of the Week
Aline (Roadside Attractions)
Céline Dion becomes Aline Dieu (“dieu” means God in French) in this weird biopic by director-writer-star Valérie Lemercier, who not only plays the Quebecois singer from childhood until superstardom but also imbues her film with a slippery mixture of adoration and condescension, which makes it a chore to sit through after the first hour. Director Lemercier’s uncertain tone—which switches from mocking to affectionate to self-pitying to distanced, sometimes within the same sequence—doesn’t help actress Lemercier’s performance, which is technically agile but emotionally chilly. More on-target is Sylvain Marcel, who plays Aline/Celine’s much older manager/Svengali/husband with an authenticity missing from the rest of the film.
Mothering Sunday (Sony Pictures Classics)
In Eva Husson’s precise, humane character study of a storied author who looks back at life-changing events in her own life, Odessa Young gives a supremely intelligent and emotionally fearless performance as Jane, who is a lowly chambermaid before events transpire to transform her into an artist of substance. There’s impeccable support from Josh O’Connor as the young man whose destiny dovetails with Jane’s own as well as Colin Firth and Olivia Colman as the couple whose home she works in, but Husson keeps the focus on Young, who gives such subtle shadings to Jane that we watch her growth in stature, maturity and artistry right in front of our eyes.
The Rose Maker (Music Box Films)
Director-cowriter Pierre Pinaud’s charmingly low-key comedy-drama about Eve, an eccentric boutique rose creator trying to keep her cherished father’s business afloat against imposingly large-scale corporations, gets the energy it needs from Catherine Frot’s exquisite portrayal of a woman used to doing things her way who slowly shifts her outlook after a trio of convicts arrives from a local rehab program to help out with her floundering business. There’s nothing surprising about anything that happens among this mismatched quartet (quintet, actually: Olivia Côte winningly plays Eve’s exasperated assistant), but it’s done so effortlessly by Pinaud, Frot and the rest of the cast that the movie’s uplift is genuine, with no schmaltz or excess..
Blu-ray Releases of the Week
Mozart’s pageant opera, “Idomeneo,” is not the popular success that “The Magic Flute,” “Don Giovanni” and “The Marriage of Figaro” are, but its stately musical procession has its adherents; this 2019 Vienna staging gives a good sense of what works, especially in the playing by the Vienna State Opera orchestra and choir under conductor Tomas Netopil and the elegant singing of Rachel Frenkel as Idamante and Valentina Nafornita as Ilia. Italian composer Umberto Giordano’s “Siberia” is a true rarity from a composer best known for “Andrea Chénier,” and its drama might be strained at times, but the music is lovely, and—in this 2021 performance from Florence—our heroine and hero, Stephana and Vissili, are brought to vivid life by Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva and Georgian tenor Giorgi Sturua. Both operas have excellent hi-def video and audio.
The Long Night (Well Go USA)
If only it wasn’t made so derivatively, Rich Ragsdale’s would-be thriller about a young woman, Grace, returning to her family’s home only to find herself and her boyfriend in the middle of a lethal battle with supernatural forces might have been truly terrifying. But nearly everything has been done better in other films: using Krzysztof Penderecki’s unsettling musical work “The Awakening of Jacob” (which Stanley Kubrick appropriated so famously in “The Shining”) is only one example. Sherri Chung’s music is otherwise properly eerie, but neither Scout Taylor-Compton nor Nolan Gerard Funk can make anything out of their cardboard characters, and Deborah Kara Young barely registers as a pivotal character in Grace’s return.
DVD Release of the Week
CSI: Vegas—Complete 1st Season (CBS/Paramount)
The ratings juggernaut that is the CSI franchise on CBS—which began in 2000 in Las Vegas, then went to Miami, New York City, and Washington DC over the next couple decades—now ends up in its original location, heralding the return of William Petersen and Jorja Fox as forensic experts Gil and Sara, who come out of retirement to help solve weekly crimes. The series’ 10 episodes provide the usual dose of dramatics that “CSI” fans have come to love (or at least tolerate after all this time); three making-of featurettes and several deleted scenes round out the package.