One Chance (2013) Review

onechance“Once Chance” is a Simon Cowell production. Like all Simon Cowell productions, its superficial, sentimental and predictable. Not content with ramming contestantssob stories down his dwindling viewership’s throat, hes branched out into the sob story: the movie business. Now, not only will he manipulate the public into supporting and voting for his pre-selected winner, he’ll slap together a movie showing the rags to riches story he’s just sold them on TV.

The only saving grace here is the presence of a great cast of character actors and a savvy director. Together, they make the best of the thin script and just about manage to elevate this above TV-movie-of-the-week level.

James Corden plays Paul Potts, the winner of the first series of “Britain’s Got Talent” who, in a not-at-all set up by the production team debut, shocked the judges and the viewing public by being very good at singing opera despite being a bit tubby and having bad teeth. Unfortunately, the film brings little depth or insight into Paul’s life beyond surface details and while we see him struggle with bullying, accidents and health setbacks, you never get the impression of his journey through life to become who he was. Corden’s performance is okay (his lip-synching is a bit patchy), but the Paul Potts he plays at the start of the film is pretty much the Paul Potts he plays at the end of the film. Surrounded by Julie Walters and Colm Meaney as his parents, Mackenzie Crook as his best friend and Alexandra Roach as his girlfriend/ wife, much of the film feels like a sitcom, albeit one with moments of light drama thrown in. Given the script shows many of Paul’s misfortunes are down to his own decisions and choices makes it hard to escape the feeling that rather than triumph through adversity, Paul actually led a charmed life where he was born with a fantastic talent and was then given repeated chances to exercise that talent. No sooner does he blow one chance than another falls into his lap, but I guess “Several Chances” wasn’t as catchy a title.

No, it must be “One Chance”, because Cowell wants you to buy the myth that Potts was destined for a life of misery and unrealised talent until he plucked him from obscurity and made him a star. Thus the film spends as little time as possible showing the opportunities he had, glosses over the time spent studying opera in Italy and barely mentions the many, many opera productions and tours he took part in. It ignores his time as a local councillor completely, preferring instead to concentrate on the domestic ordinariness of his life back in Wales and go for cheap comedy instead of genuine feeling.

Director David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada”) does a decent job but, the Venice scenes aside, is saddled with dull locations to film in and there’s very little you can do to make the inside of a modest little mobile phone shop appear cinematic. By the end, it takes the lazy route of using archive footage from the actual TV show intercut with new footage of Corden replicating Potts’ original audition. Unfortunately, all this serves to do is remind you of the TV roots of this movie and put the odious Piers Morgan on the big screen. Amanda Holden appears too, but it may have been a still photograph as her face didn’t move. Cowell’s next cinematic oeuvre is a “Pudsey The Dog” movie with David Walliams as the voice of Pudsey the dog, so perhaps “One Chance” will actually turn out to be the peak of Cowell’s movie endeavours.

Neither inspirational or uplifting, this is a workmanlike telling of the story of a nice guy who had a string of opportunities and eventually struck it lucky. Like many of Cowell’s talent show winners, it will linger in the mind for a few days then be completely forgotten.

4/10 Score 4