The movie version of Sofie Cramer’s German novel “Text For You,” “Love Again,” brilliantly depicts Céline Dion’s persona. It pays homage to Dion and her songs and features Sam Heughan and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Unsurprisingly, watching the 55-year-old singer in her first leading part in a feature film, in which she plays herself, is the film’s main draw. Dion, who also serves as executive producer, is responsible for a whooping 80% of the comedy and the majority of the charm in the movie.
Jim Strouse, who also wrote and directed the movie, centres it around two underdeveloped individuals who find themselves in an unusual circumstance that is ripe for emotional outbursts. Chopra Jonas’s character, Mira, is introduced to us in a New York coffee cafe. She is engrossed in her work as a children’s book illustrator and in love with her boyfriend John (Arinzé Kene). Tragically, she sees John killed in a drunk driving accident. Strouse portrays this moment with extreme intensity—not in the exuberant way Céline does.
The tale never entirely recovers from this horrific tragedy, despite several moving sequences that explore the raw edges of mourning. Mira is urged to move back to the city and begin dating again two years after her loss by her upbeat younger sister Suzy (played by Sofia Barclay, who fills in the humorous voids left by Dion). Mira grudgingly agrees to a mediocre date with a Midtown man, who is portrayed by Chopra Jonas’s real-life husband, Nick Jonas, with exaggerated flair. In an effort to manage her feelings, Mira begins texting John’s old number, which is now in the hands of melancholy music writer Rob Burns (played by Heughan), who is healing from a failed engagement.
When Rob starts to receive heartbreaking text messages from an unknown source, whom he eventually realizes is the stunning Mira, his inner fortress starts to crumble. He is tasked with writing a profile of Céline Dion at the same time that she begins her first tour after losing her manager and spouse Réné Angélil. Although it has an uncanny turn, this plot has a foundation that is both genuine and touching. It is absurd logic, worthy of Céline’s grandiose persona, to compare Rob’s one-sided emotional connection to Céline with the singer’s own experience of falling in love with her much older manager on the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest. Céline’s songs, music videos, and her role as a subject who transforms every interview into a therapy session are all prominently featured in the movie.
Rob’s perception of Céline’s advice on the madness of love is never fully accurate. It is obviously troublesome to pursue a lady while covertly reading her texts to her dead boyfriend, as Céline correctly notes. The chemistry between Chopra Jonas and Heughan is passable, or more accurately, their expertise and experience enable them to generate banter that feels realistic enough for a movie. To mix cheesiness, campiness, unabashed earnestness, and overly sentimental behaviour, however, only Dion can do it. Everyone else’s attempts come out as forced and embarrassing, such Heughan’s version of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” in the shower or Chopra Jonas’s attempt to flirt with Rob using basketball, which is his first language.
Despite these issues, “Love Again” nevertheless manages to make the audience feel real emotions, especially when Mira and John go through old text messages while Dion’s music is playing in the background. Fans of the singer will also like Césentence’s single tear, her trademark sing-talking, and her delivery of the line “OK, Mr. Underwear,” which surprisingly makes sense in the context of the plot. As a tribute to the singer rather than a romantic comedy, I find “Love Again” to be more enjoyable. Unfortunately, the film’s few high points are continuously undermined by the presence of tacky text messages that are shown on screen. I’d much prefer read a phone over someone’s shoulder at this point.
The movie’s conclusion is, as one might anticipate, unrealistic, especially given Rob’s individuality is still limited to a hazy interest in music, basketball, and Mira. Why Mira would chose to overlook such an offence is still a mystery. But over the phone, Céline reassures Mira, “I don’t really care if you and Rob get together,” once more wonderfully expressing our feelings. While “Aline,” the extremely strange and unofficial biopic directed by Valérie Lemercier, continues to be the most prominent tribute to Céline Dion, “Love Again” manages to have its moments by giving the Queen of Feelings her due. Although I can’t say it was a really good movie, I did enjoy it.