Toronto Film Festival 2013
Film review: One Chance - James Corden provides belly laughs as Britain's Got Talent winner Paul Potts
Tuesday 10 September 2013
Paul Potts embodies all that is good about TV talent shows. Not blessed with the looks of Brad Pitt, the opera singer from Port Talbot was rejected out of hand by music professionals before the public voted him the winner of Britain's Got Talent in 2007. He is certainly not the type of guy to have a movie made about him. It’s not like he’s Pol Pot, as the joke – played twice in an otherwise hilarious introduction to the singer - goes.
After a brief, schmaltzy preface set in 1985 when the nine-year-old Potts ruptures his eardrum and is bullied at school for being fat and liking opera, the film starts in earnest with a voiceover in which Potts tells us that he always wanted to sing and that his life has been an endless cycle of music, drama and comedy. It’s now 2004 and Potts (James Corden) is still living at home. His dad hates him singing opera, he is still scared of the school bully and he has been texting a girl for a year, but has never plucked up the courage to actually meet her. An acerbic Mackenzie Crook, playing his best friend and boss at Carphone Warehouse, eventually arranges for Paul to meet the girl who describes herself as a Cameron Diaz doppelganger. When she turns out to be Julie Ann-Cooper (Alexandra Roach), a Cardiff check-out assistant, Potts is rather relieved. A great first date, featuring a torch, an accidental encounter with Paul’s mum and a pub quiz, follows.
The director David Frankel has a patchy track record - The Devil Wears Prada sits alongside The Big Year on his resume - but he must be commended for the superb way he weaves Britain’s Got Talent into his film. He tells the story with broad strokes and doesn’t mind inventing fictions when it helps to move the story along. The film works best when the action plays to Corden’s comedic strengths. He brings out some real belly laughs and his love story with Roach is heart-warming enough to provide plenty of goodwill from the audience when the action veers off course – in Italy.
When Potts goes to Venice, some serious stereotypes are trotted out - most notably a big fat mama and brothers willing to break your legs. A montage in which Potts sings with the beautiful Alessandra (Valeria Bilelo) runs like a Venetian tourist board commercial. When it ends badly and when Paul returns back to Port Talbot, there is another tonal shift. Asked to show his acting chops and play depressed, Corden doesn’t quite hit the mark. The film seems to want to ape the dramatic arc of an opera but it never quite succeeds in this ambition. Still, you don’t need to be a Paul Potts fan to be consumed and amused by this charming tale.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant