Editor’s Note: One Chance opens in limited release tomorrow, March 14th
There’s a fundamental foulness to the Paul Potts success story as engineered by the editorial sensibilities of Britain’s Got Talent. Like Susan Boyle after him, the populist power of Potts’ victory in the TV talent contest comes courtesy of the middle-class meanness that’s manifest in the show; one need only see the sweeping crane shots and hear the orchestral swells that accompanied his audition to appreciate the queasy air of ennobling: oh how nice, that a phone salesman with wonky teeth can actually have talent. Those four minutes—essentially the source of One Chance, and the moment to which the movie builds—are hideously hinged on the novelty idea of an “unattractive” man, against all odds, actually having worth.
Make no mistake: the movie’s still Syco-sanitised slop mass-produced for public consumption, but beneath the sugar that renders the story so saccharine and toothless, Zackham has had the gall to sneak a trace of real nutrition.
In delving into the wider life of pre-success Potts’, Justin Zackham’s script succeeds in assembling the real story, that of a talented man who realised his potential. It is, by no standards, a particularly good screenplay, but it’s an impressive act of adaption to take as warped an image of worth as the show’s is and translate it to the truth of talent and hard work, free from the cloying and classist context a weaker writer might have perpetuated. Make no mistake: the movie’s still Syco-sanitised slop mass-produced for public consumption, but beneath the sugar that renders the story so saccharine and toothless, Zackham has had the gall to sneak a trace of real nutrition.
But oh what sugar: even for a film from the writer of The Bucket List and the director of Marley & Me, One Chance plays the feel-good card as though it were the only one in the pack. All three films, of course, have an inevitable end to build to; the happiness of this one doesn’t withhold the—perhaps appropriately—operatic intensity in which the score shrouds every small setback. That twanging you might hear beneath the opera vocals is no bass line, but heartstrings snapping under the weight of the sentiment Zackham and director David Frankel pile on at every turn. “As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to sing,” Potts’ voiceover begins, like Goodfellas for the whole family; the movie seems desperate for us to forget he will.
But if such serendipity shows the harmlessness of the precision-engineered populism of the production, there’s no shortage of scenes to show the hurt.
Would that we could: when not losing itself in teasing the audience with those mawkish moments of tempting fate, One Chance potters along with perfectly pleasant humour. Perhaps it’s the presence of Mackenzie Crook and the role of a Carphone Warehouse, but Zackham’s blend of awkward and oddball humour isn’t a far cry from the style of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, albeit with the hit-and-miss rate of their more recent works. It’s counterpoint pandering to the romantic aspects, presumably, a lurid lure for the teenage males; so it is indeed with all the movie’s merits, accidental successes amidst the family-friendly formula. James Corden, of course, makes sense for his comedy, but it’s for the dramatic likes of All or Nothing that he comes in handy.
But if such serendipity shows the harmlessness of the precision-engineered populism of the production, there’s no shortage of scenes to show the hurt. No editor worth her salt wouldn’t notice the issues abundant here; Annie Hall-accredited Wendy Greene Bricmont’s work betrays an inconsistency of coverage care of a production line that expects its audience to know no better. Likewise a cast culled from the British Isles’ finest: Colm Meaney and Julie Walters might be terrific thespians, but their Welsh accents could scarcely be more off. Worst of all is the culminating scene, which integrates Corden’s re-enactment with actual event footage to appalling, unconvincing effect. But those four minutes, which conclude with a judge comparing Potts to a lump of coal, are a convincing reminder, if nothing else: as poor a film as One Chance is, at least it’s not Britain’s Got Talent.
[notification type="star"]46/100 ~ BAD. But those four minutes, which conclude with a judge comparing Potts to a lump of coal, are a convincing reminder, if nothing else: as poor a film as One Chance is, at least it’s not Britain’s Got Talent.[/notification]