On Chance

ONE CHANCE. Starring: James Corden, Alexandra Roach, Julie Walters, and Colm Meaney. Directed by David Frankel. Rated PG (Mild coarse language, violence and sexual references). 103 min.

Anyone who thrilled to watch Susan Boyle stun the world, as this reviewer did, with the unexpected power of her voice on the evening of 11 April 2009 in UK’s television programme , “Britain’s Got Talent” will warm very much towards this movie.

The film is based on the true story of Paul Potts, bullied by day and trying to sing Opera by night. Potts became a phenomenon by winning “Britain’s Got Talent” show in 2007. A movie has not yet been made about Susan Boyle, but it is planned. Susan Boyle didn’t win the final, but Paul Potts did.

Potts (James Corden) was a car-phone warehouse manager in the UK. He was overweight, not particularly good looking, a little socially inept, but sweet-natured, and very likeable. He was targeted by bullies all the time while growing up as a small child in Port Talbot, South Wales, for singing and liking Opera; and he endured being bullied as an adult.

In pursuit of his dream, Potts raised enough money to go to singing school in Venice where he auditioned far too nervously for a look-a-like Luciano Pavarotti, who cruelly tells him in an opera master-class that he has no hope ever of being a good opera singer.

Despite what the professionals tell him, Pott’s voice overcomes all obstacles to bring the audience of the talent show to its feet. His incredible rendition of “Nessun Dorma” (“None Shall Sleep”) from Giacomo Puccini’s opera, Turandot, makes it impossible for anyone not to cheer, as does the audience and the three judges of the Talent Show for which he performed. This is a movie all about the underdog performing, against all expectations, to fulfil personal ambition. It is impossible not to admire Potts, though the film misses out on conveying the full drama of someone who has experienced a lot of hardship, but who is destined ultimately to inspire.

James Corden acts Potts strongly in a movie that is sentimental and a little clichéd. Paradoxically it is Corden’s ability as a comedian and his natural propensity to make you laugh that weakens dramatically the character he plays as the misunderstood, ambitious singer. Potts constantly experiences disasters and unexpected happenings, which range from a middle-ear infection that strikes him down during choir practice, to a sudden attack of appendicitis before an important performance, to stage fright at a critical time, to a bicycle crash with a car that puts him into hospital, and an audition he fails because of an anxiety attack.

Bad health and bad luck have dogged Potts constantly throughout his life. Picked on by others at school and at work, he was also caught between a disapproving, working-class father (Colm Meaney) and a doting, loving mother (Julie Walters). However, behind people, who are insecure, there are often strong others. Potts is supported very lovingly by his wife (Alexandra Roach), who reaches out to him emotionally in whatever way she can. Her ability to become his tower of strength is the ultimate force that drives him forward to success, and the film portrays their relationship tenderly, sensitively and movingly.

This is a value-friendly film that plays to the heart. Corden has great comedic strength and the enjoyment that the movie engenders stems as much from this talent as his ability to convey what Potts must have been like.

This is a feel-good film you just sit back and enjoy, and it is directed by David Frankel as a crowd-pleaser that is very easy to like. Despite its faults, it offers wholesome entertainment that conveys all the right moral messages about a talented person, finally making good, with the help of a lot of support around him.

Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

Roadshow Films.

Out November 28th., 2013.


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