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One Chance
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by Jay Seaver

"Has Talent."
3 stars

Once upon a time, the Weinstein brothers might have been able to make the pleasant-enough "One Chance" a sleeper hit, if not necessarily an awards contender; today they are barely able to get it noticed. And that's not fair either - it's a fine evening's entertainment, delivering exactly the same sort of charming true story that it promises.

It's the story of Paul Potts (James Corden), a cell-phone salesman still living with his parents in his late twenties. It's not a terrible life - he works with his best mate Braddon (Mackenzie Crook); he's finally meeting Julz (Alexandra Roach), the nice girl he's been chatting with online for the past year; and he's almost saved enough to attend a prestigious opera school in Venice. Singing opera is a dream that his mother Yvonne (Julie Walters) has always supported far more than aggressively working-class father Roland (Colm Meaney), and one that seems to get two steps further away with every step he makes in that direction.

One Chance came out in the UK about a year ago, where Paul's eventual run on Britain's Got Talent is much better known, which may help explain just why the film proceeds on such an even keel: Even beyond how they don't generally make movies about guys who choke on stage and then, after a number of trials, choke on stage again, the events are fresh in the mind of the film's main audience. As much as this kind of drains tension and suspense, it does have an upside in that what could be a series of very melodramatic moments instead becomes comedic: For crying out loud, what other sort of injury that messes with one's ability to sing will he suffer?

Keeping that even keel does mean that screenwriter Justin Zackham seems to pad the movie in other ways - Paul's time in Venice makes for some pretty imagery, but it spends a lot of time building up things that really aren't going to be the focus at any point during the second half of the movie. There's a subplot involving the guy who bullied Paul in school (Trystan Gravelle) that may have actually happened but which certainly feels a bit awfully worn. It's there to lead up to a specific color-by-numbers moment, albeit one that is satisfying.

Without a lot of huge highs and lows, the film relies on being full of characters the audience is predisposed to like being played by actors that are similarly likable. So they build it around James Corden, an expansive and cheerful guy who keeps things upbeat throughout. He plays well off the rest of the cast, too, especially Alexandra Roach as his thoroughly charming girlfriend, while Julie Walters is consistently sharp as the mother. Mackenzie Crook is always funny when he pops in as Braddon, especially when it's a double act with Jemima Rooper as his girlfriend. And it is very difficult to go wrong with Colm Meaney as a blustery father.

Director David Frankel takes the group and story and plays it out nicely enough, punching up some of the funnier moments and rolling through some of the others. It's a good-looking movie that builds a nice sense of place in its mid-sized Welsh town and doesn't try to get too clever when it gets to the points where the audience knows what's coming. He seldom hits a sour note, and it's a bit of an accomplishment to get through a movie that really isn't that ambitious without ever feeling disappointed.

"One Chance" doesn't hit huge highs, but it also doesn't hit any kind of lows. It's the sort of movie that likely won't stick with the audience for very long, but works well enough while it's running. With the opera classing it up a little and it would seem to hit all the right boxes, although it just doesn't seem to have grabbed people in American theaters.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25672&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/16/14 22:53:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Middleburg Film Festival For more in the 2013 Middleburg Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Denver Film Festival For more in the 2013 Denver Film Festival series, click here.

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  10-Oct-2014 (PG-13)

  25-Oct-2013 (12A)


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