‘One Chance’ movie review: James Corden is pre-fame Paul Potts


At the Czech premiere of One Chance – a fictionalized account of the life of Paul Potts, one of the most well-known contestants from Britain’s Got Talent – that famous BGT YouTube clip preceded the film. You know the one – where the unlikely Potts sings Nessun Dorma in front of stunned judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, and Piers Morgan, and the crowd goes wild. 

During the course of the film – a one-note, rigidly formulaic affair that feels much too contrived to be completely on the level – I thought a documentary covering Potts’ life might be a more rewarding experience. But eventually I realized that the 4-minute YouTube clip was all you need: it’s a perfect little sound bite that tells this story in exactly the amount of time it needs to be told.

The thing is, there just isn’t enough material in One Chance to justify the experience of sitting through it. This isn’t a poorly made film in most regards: it’s competently assembled by director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) – even if it feels cobbled together, with vaguely true elements given a spiffy Hollywood polish – the cast is likable, and the character of Potts is a true underdog who we can genuinely root for. 

But there’s really something missing in the plot department here: the story of one man’s epic struggle from Carphone Warehouse to talent show just didn’t cut it for me. You see, One Chance ends with the Britain’s Got Talent performance; the one interesting element of Potts’ life – his success after the show, and how he has dealt with it – is completely absent here.

James Corden stars as Potts, a bullied youth who was always picked on for his singing; things haven’t changed much, and the local loudmouth is still on his case even after he wows the crowd at a local talent show. By the end, when said loudmouth receives his second comeuppance, the film has firmly left the realm of faux biography and entered the realm of scripted formula. 

But that’s One Chance in a nutshell: apparently realizing there wasn’t enough drama in this story, screenwriter Justin Zackham (The Big Wedding) opted to come up with his own theatrics to fill in the gaps. I know next to nothing about Potts’ life story, yet I knew a great deal of this film was hogwash. 

Like Potts’ relationship with girlfriend and future wife Julz (an effective Alexandra Roach). In an effort to manufacture drama, the script has Potts give her the cold shoulder for no reason whatsoever, ignoring her calls in the weeks after his audition for Pavarotti goes sour. This had me rooting against him, but he wins Julz back by singing to her in the street (groan). 

Colm Meany and Julie Walters offer solid support as Potts’ parents; Mackenzie Crook provides comic relief as his manager and friend at Carphone Warehouse. Much of the film is handled as broad comedy, with Potts’ medical ailments being a running joke; a horrific bicycle injury is the climactic punchline. 

During all of this, I wondered what we were supposed to be latching on to, or rooting for. It’s like watching the life story of a lottery winner: there just isn’t much tangible arc in the journey to that magic moment. Barely managing to tell the same story as a 4-minute YouTube clip over the course of a 100-minute running time, One Chance really struggles to maintain interest, though undemanding audiences will likely be satisfied.

At the Prague premiere last Friday, Potts was present to introduce the film (he performed at the Opera Ball the following night), where he told the crowd that this was the sixth or seventh time that he had watched the movie in full. That’s about six or seven more times than I’d recommend.

One Chance


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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