Film Review: Love Again (2023)

As Oscar weekend approaches, what better time to take in Céline Dion’s big screen debut in Love Again…?

“Sit up straight man, you’re with Céline Dion”

To know me is to know that I am unironically a big fan of Céline Marie Claudette Dion but I have to say that even I baulked momentarily at the prospect of Love Again, a 2023 rom-com featuring a (barely) fictionalised version of Ms Dion in her big screen debut. As it turns out, other people (Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Sam Heughan) are doing the rom and Céline actually brings a fair amount of the com, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering how in on the joke she has long been about the extravagance of her public persona.

Written and directed by James C. Strouse as an English-language remake of the 2016 German film SMS für Dich, in turn based on a novel by Sofie Cramer, it is certainly a peculiar beast. Mira is a children’s author whose boyfriend is killed within moments of the film starting; Rob is a music critic recently dumped not-quite-at-the altar; and since this is a rom-com, he ends up with the dead boyf’s mobile when it is recycled into his new work phone. She continues to text her lover to help with her grief, he reads them and tracks her down, will they get over the ickiness and end up together with the help of Céline? What do you think?! 

Chopra Jonas and Heughan manage to generate just about enough chemistry to get their eventual meet-cute going and burbling through the hammy obstacles the movie puts in place for them. The real joy though is in the scenes with Céline (who Rob is contracted to interview prior to her first tour since the death of her beloved Réné) which, due to Covid/megastar-protocols, she filmed without meeting any of her co-stars. This means ‘eyeline actors’ are mentioned in the credits which is fabulous but to Strouse’s credit, it isn’t hugely obvious (I don’t think?).

As a character, Céline is as earnest and entertaining as she is in real life, a neat way with a quip (“OK Mr Underwear”) or a non sequitur (“I don’t really care if you and Rob get together”) means she’s actually quite funny. And elsewhere, the film sparkles when it embraces this sense of fun – Mira’s first dip back into the dating pool is with a buffed-up bro played by Chopra Jonas’ actual husband Nick Jonas, Heughan is all of us singing along to ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’ (although significantly more ripped than most), Sofia Barclay’s relentless energy as Mira’s younger sister and cheerleader Suzy.

The perfunctory way that the many, many text messages are shown onscreen do lack imagination and inspiration though, stifling any attempt to build a flow throughout. There’s a bizarrely British focus to the supporting cast too (Russell Tovey, Celia Imrie, Lydia West, Omid Djalil, Arinzé Kene) most of whom have really quite shonky US accents that constantly perplex and distract in their scenes. But weirdly, it just doesn’t really matter because this fever dream of a film exists beyond this kind of criticism – it is surely destined to go on….

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