There’s Only One Way This Can End, by David Bax
A quick heads up for those Americans planning on purchasing tickets to see David Frankel’s One Chance this weekend. This film is based on the true story of a guy who won Britain’s Got Talent and became famous in his home country. Obviously, people in Britain are aware of that but I thought you should be too because the film itself clearly assumes that you are.
Paul Potts, according to One Chance, was a undeterrably devoted opera fan as a child and insisted on singing even when it got him beat up by your standard, anti-opera schoolyard bullies. This bullying, the film would imply, continued right up until Paul was in his early thirties and came to resemble actor James Corden, who plays the adult lead. Then he went to an opera school in Venice, which he left after a misstep in a performance. This proved to be the first in a series of dreadful things that happen to Paul, not the least of which is having a girlfriend – and later, wife – who puts up with entirely too much of his wishy-washy bullshit.
These mishaps are the source of the title’s intended irony. You see, Paul had far more than one chance but because he choked or got hit by a car or his appendix burst, he kept getting stymied. I imagine that, in the man’s real life, these were heartbreaking occurrences, frustrating the talent he and his loved ones knew him to possess. But, in One Chance, they are all causes for comedy because, of course, we all know that he’s going to win Britain’s Got Talent at the end and become super famous.
The only time the film breaks from this formula (opportunity, disaster, repeat) is when Paul is in school in Venice. Here we actually get a sense of the character, of what it feels like for a young man too long surrounded by people who don’t understand him to begin to feel free and confident and whole. This is why, when he so completely deflates after blowing one performance, it’s disheartening to the point that I was tempted to turn on the character for good.
It’s as difficult to blame Corden as it is to applaud him or anyone else in the film. The rest of the cast includes Alexandra Roach as the way-too-long suffering girlfriend, Julie Walters as Paul’s mother, Colm Meaney as his father and Mackenzie Crook as his best friend. Crook gets off easy by being assigned the weirdo comic relief role at which he excels. The others seem to know, as the rest of the film does, exactly where Paul will end up. Meaney, for example, is gruffly disapproving of his son’s career choices in a way that suggests he’s biding his time until the perfect opportunity to have a change of heart.
The heartstring-tugging predictability of One Chance makes me wonder why it’s coming out now instead of a few weeks in the future. It would have been the perfectly inoffensive movie to pacify a large brood during the holidays.