The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Review: One Chance

Lloyd endures the longest Britain’s Got Talent commercial yet


The first year of Britain’s Got Talent brought a watershed of hopefuls who believed they had what it took to become a superstar. This real life story of Paul Potts (James Corden) shows how he went from being just an average shop assistant to a country phenomenon in winning the show as an opera singer.

It is a film racked around the symbol of hope and how if you continue to believe you will finally reach your goal. Sadly, it never manages to portray this with any sincerity, mainly because it tries to swing the audience with nothing but pity. The lack of sincerity comes from scenes that feel so aware that a line or a close up can get an ‘aww’ from the audience without any real substance put into them. There is no development of the characters or rapport between them because the only two emotions they display are sympathy and hope. The director David Frankel seems to have decided that these are in fact the only two emotions available and is relentless with it to the point it is comical. It is ironically the lack of realism depicted in any of the people or changing points in Paul Potts’ life that leave this supposedly real life tale wanting. The film is supposed to be light-hearted but the attempt to display with such vulnerability means it  lacks any comedic value. The narrative and dialogue is bumpy and uneven causing for overwhelming awkwardness rather than the heartstrings puller it was aiming for.

It almost seems over the last few years that Corden has suffered from Gavin and Stacey being too good. His attempts to break away from his character ‘Smithy’ have probably not quite gone to plan with regrettable films like Vampire Killers (2009) and Gulliver’s Travels (2010). For a biopic to work there has to be a feeling of sincerity and realness within the character, but Corden never manages to portray this. Everything is overplayed, his bumbling, his awkwardness and even his dream of opera, to a point where the film and performance feel dishonest. Paul Potts himself may well have been all these, but it was too forced and overworked to display anything that amounted to lifelike. There seems to be genuine anguish for Corden in trying to master the Welsh accent, and he probably amounts to around fifty-percent of his lines in it.

The best moment by far in the film (and it is hard to find one) comes in the twenty-seconds Potts sings in a pub for the first time. It is the only moment where the nature of what he is doing radiates through, due to the simplicity and naturalness of the shot. For a film reliant on opera singing to show its message the other instances where Potts sings feel unbelievably orchestrated and wooden.

The poster for the film has ridiculously labeled it as the ‘new’ Billy Elliot (2000) but completely lacks in the socio-cultural backdrop displayed in this. What makes you route for Billy Elliot is that he is a beacon of hope within a community that is crumbling around him. The comedy comes off so well because it juxtaposes the grit, whereas with One Chance there is nothing but light-hearted sympathy for the good times and the bad. The adversity may not be as great but there is a lack of desire to show it with any realism, as cheap ‘aw moments’ are ultimately easier

The real life of Paul Potts may be one of wonder, but across the big screen it lacks any real conviction.