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One Chance


Stars: James Corden, Julie Walters, Alexandra Roach, Mackenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Jemima Rooper, Valeria Bilello, Trystan Gravelle

Director: David Frankel

One of the most surprising aspects of this essentially British success story is that the witty and credible screenplay is by American Justin Zackham, making handsome amends for his s script for the abominable The Big Wedding. He only betrays his New York Film School backstory when a text is sent stating Pavarotti is an ‘ass’ rather than the British ‘arse’ and having revellers singing the American “which nobody can deny” rather than the British “And so say all of us” when warbling ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow”.

In fairness, this is simply nitpicking. The heartwarming saga of Port Talbot mobile ‘phone salesman and operatic singer Paul Potts (his former employers must be delighted with the plentiful product placement One Chance affords them) who won the television competition Britain’s Got Talent turns out to be genuinely heartwarming and feel-good, thanks to script, American David The Devil Wears Prada Frankel’s spot-on direction and, above all, to the casting of James Corden as Potts.

Corden (the real-life Paul Potts provides his singing voice) makes his character hyper-optimistic as well as understandably downcast when disaster strikes and appears to have ended his hopes of an operatic career as he suffers a burst appendix during an amateur operatic performance.

But he turns out to be a fighter, even after being struck by a car.

The story sees Corden/Potts survive being bullied at school while singing his way to success, wooing Alexandra Roach by texts (he claims he resembles Brad Pitt) until she turns up in Port Talbot to meet him for the first time when, due to the local flower shop being closed, he gives her a wind-up flashlight as a gift instead. Their romance rings attractively true thanks to his and Roach’s endearing performances.

Mackenzie Crook provides amusing comic relief as Corden’s mobile telephone shop colleague, the aspirant singer’s stint at an opera school in Venice is well done, picturesque and, in Corden’s meeting over lunch with his Italian’s singing partner’s family (her grandmother calls him ‘Fatty’), amusingly credible. As is his unfortunate singing encounter with Pavarotti (cruelly described as “nothing but a binge eater with a comb-over”) whose judgment of his voice almost derails his dreams which come true (after six months without a voice and a gap in his singing career of 18 months) when he is voted the Britain’s Got Talent winner.

(A word of warning, here. There are close-ups of egregious British television presenters Ant and Dec, Britain’s Got Talent judge Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan!).

Corden is perfect in the role, funny and emotionally true as the scenes demand, and supporting performances are excellent, too.

Julie Walters enjoys herself as Potts’ mother, Colm Meaney as his stern steelworker father gets one of the most enjoyable lines when in a pub and faced with hearing his son sing states “I’d trade both my ears for a pint right now” before, of course, falling under Potts' operatic spell and Roach is delightful, funny and credible.

Based on a true story, One Chance proves life can be a lot more fun than fiction. It’s a comic-emotional pleasure from start to finish.

Alan Frank

UK/USA 2013. UK Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributos. Colour.
103 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 03 Nov 2013