One Chance merits encore

October 9, 2014

It’s fitting that a movie about a man’s ability to sing opera at the top of his lungs lacks subtlety. One Chance tells the (somewhat) true story of Paul Potts, an average Joe with a passion for opera. Much like Potts’ voice, the film is loud and bombastic. Director David Frankel revels in its clamor, resulting in a brilliantly inspiring, albeit predictable, experience.

James Corden portrays Potts with a charismatic, wide-eyed sensibility. Potts’ life hits on most of the cliches that have become typical of the underdog story: Unsupportive father? Check. Problems with women? Check. Childhood bullying? Check. Corden’s performance and some clever dialogue, by writer Justin Zackham, help keep the viewer from completely withdrawing from the film during these scenes.

Though the story ticks along at a reasonable pace, it hits a low note when it focuses on arcane plotlines that can only be understood by opera aficionados. Still, Frankel injects enough humor and drama into the film to keep the viewer involved.

The main strength of the film lies in its emotion. It goes to great lengths to ensure that the audience will empathize with Potts—and it w orks. Some of the best scenes come with the protagonist’s triumphs, whether it’s when a performance in a bar is well-received or when Potts wins “Britain’s Got Talent.” There’s genuine emotion to be found, and these scenes are a pleasure to watch.

Potts’ girlfriend, unfortunately, is one of the more one-dimensional characters in the film. She comes in and out of the story when convenient, and quickly falls in and out of love with Potts. Their relationship lacks any real tension, as it’s obvious that the two will end up together. Easily the best relationship in the film is between Potts and his old-fashioned, gruff father, portrayed magnificently by the stalwart Colm Meaney. Father and son are depicted early in the film at the dinner table, sharing food and poignant silence.

The improbable fairy-tale nature of the story forced me to continually remind myself that what I was watching actually happened. Potts goes through so much failure and bad luck that I had to question how much of the true story actually made it to the screen. The use of real footage of the judges’ reactions at the conclusion of the film mixed with Corden’s performance was awkward, though it gave a sense of realism to the positive ending.

One Chance is certainly not going to be remembered as a particularly deep or subtle film. It has no qualms about being a predictable underdog story. Everyone in the movie embraces this fact, and the movie triumphs because of it. If the viewer can turn a blind eye to the predictable plotline and the one-note characters, then there is a legitimately uplifting and inspiring story to be enjoyed. Much like Potts himself, the movie is earnest and passionate, and puts a new spin on the tired message of “chasing one’s dreams.” That, most certainly, earns the movie at least one chance.

Graham Piro
Graham Piro is a former editor-in-chief of the Voice. He isn't sure why the rest of the staff let him stick around. Follow him on Twitter @graham_piro.

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