The Weinstein Company
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten. Data-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: David Frankel
Writer: Justin Zackham
Cast: James Corden, Alexandra Roach, Julie Walters, Colm Meany, Mackenzie Crook
Screened at: Review, NYC, 1/22/14
Opens: March 14, 2014
What causes a person to be bullied? The obvious answer is that the victim does not fit in with the group. He may be fatter, slower, dorkier, or may even have a talent that’s looked down upon by the majority. Paul Potts (James Corden) is the recipient of the dubious honor of being beaten up starting in what we in the States would call Middle School, then by a band of toughs when he becomes a young adult. Why so? He’s pudgy, but perhaps more important because he’s into opera. Even being the star of a boys’ choir makes the rabble suspicious of this talented individual. “One Chance” is based on the true story of a guy who looks pretty much like Corden, director Frankel even reproducing the real Paul Potts recital in a competition that won him £100,000 and changed his life. One way of describing the tale is that “One Chance” shows that Paul Potts’s dad (Colm Meany) succeeds in good parenting, in that he made his son “better” than his father.
We root for the lad from the beginning. He’s a fellow who could not defend himself even if he had just one bully after him. We pull for him when he is brutally dismissed when giving a recital before Luciano Pavarotti, who broke into the young man’s aria after just a few bars, telling Paul that he may never be an opera singer. We cheer his love life, a virgin who meets Julie-Ann (Alexandra Roach) in an Internet chat room. Who says the Internet prevents us from socializing in person? Julie-Ann is adorable, with a pudge about her waist as well, so it’s love at first sight when they meet at a South Wales train station near Paul’s home. She’s a clerk in a drugstore, he’s a refugee from an industrial hell where the temperature reaches 2,000 degrees (which could be pretty hot depending on whether we’re talking Fahrenheit or Celsius).
We follow Paul as he attends a school in Venice, where cinematographer Florian Ballhaus photographs as though he were the principal photographer for Perillo Tours—stunning. There’s plenty of conflict even when Paul is no longer bullied. He lacks confidence, not unsurprising after he’s trashed by Pavarotti. His dad wants him to work in the mill like everyone in this Welsh town. But his mother (Julie Walters) is with him all the way as is the extended Venetian family of another competitor in the opera sing-offs. His boss in a cell-phone store (Mackenzie Crook), sober or otherwise, backs up Paul’s plans.
David Frankel, known for his direction of “The Devil Wears Prada” (another success story about a naïve young woman who comes to New York to work for a tough magazine editor) and “Marley and Me” (a family learns lessons from a neurotic dog), fills the screen with arias, sticking to those presumably familiar to the most Philistine in the audience. You’ll leave the theater disregarding the predictability of the outcome and perhaps even beginning to fall in love with Puccini and Verdi.
Rated PG-13. 103 minutes. © 2014 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+