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One Chance

2014-04-17 14:47
What it's about:

Based on the true story of Paul Potts, a regular working class guy whose dreams of being an opera singer is given new life by popular talent show, Britain's Got Talent.

What we thought:

One Chance has all the ingredients of a truly wretched viewing experience. Not only does it co-star MacKenzie Crook who, despite playing an integral part in the original UK version of the Office, has become a one-man omen of bad British movies – movies so bad they never seem to leave the British Isles – it is produced by Simon Cowell. Yes, that Simon Cowell. Everything pointed to this being little more than a cynical ploy to shill the Simon Cowell brand to unsuspecting movie goers who already had enough of his empire of manufactured pop on TV, thank you very much, but are now stuck having to swallow it on the big screen too. That the film is based on one of his show's greatest success stories does little to dampen how crass and just all round icky it seemed at the outset. Honestly, I'm just surprised we didn't get the Susan Boyle story first.      

You know what really bugs me about One Chance though? Not only did it actually turn out to be a seriously lovely little film with a perfect balance of romance, drama and laugh-out-loud comedy, it also makes a seriously compelling argument that these talent shows actually offer far more than their glitzy, manipulative, sensationalist sheen may suggest. Damnit.

Now, don't get me wrong, One Chance is no masterpiece. It is pretty manipulative and clearly couldn't be arsed about subtlety or nuance; it never quite manages to escape its crass capitalist roots and, for an alleged true story, it is really rather formulaic. None of this really detracts, however, from just how charming, just how funny and just how – yup – uplifting the whole thing ends up being.

First, we have the performances themselves. Well, yes, the music performances too, of course, which all err to the side of extremely popular opera pieces and the odd bit of light pop/folk – but I'm talking primarily of the cast themselves here. Despite a lot of sniffiness and general oohing and aahing from some quarters, James Corden turns out to be an incredibly likeable lead and he is given some killer support by the likes of Julie Waters, Colm Meany and, sure enough, a seriously funny Mackenzie Crook. It is, however, Alexandra Roach who is the true heart of the film as Potts' occasionally suffering but utterly lovely love-interest, Julz – that the film doesn't fall head-first into schmaltz and sickly sentiment has everything to do with her beautifully compassionate and grounded performance.   

Fortunately for Ms Roach, however, she is hardly stuck doing all the heavy lifting on her lonesome. Director David Frankel has a sporadically excellent but ultimately uneven resume but he maintains a fine balance between the grittiness of blue-collar Wales and the obvious romance of what is basically a zero-to-hero tale. He also clearly has a definite knack for comic directing as pretty much all of screenwriter Justin Zackham's jokes hit their marks perfectly. While Zackham does a perfectly good job with the more dramatic elements of the script, it's really the perfectly pitched humour that shines through. Whether it's pratfalls, sight gags or witty one liners, One Chance's script is funny all the way through and is brought to constantly funny life by an engaged director and an all round great cast.  

On an objective level, I couldn't possibly give One Chance more than three stars but feel free to up that rating as far as you want if all you're looking for is pure, unadulterated enjoyment. Cynics may scoff but for everyone else this is easily going to go down as one of the year's best – if you'll pardon the expression - “feel good” films.

It ain't perfect but, especially considering it's produced by Simon Cowell, One Chance is a constantly warm-hearted and seriously funny charmer of a film.
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