Director David Frankel is currently suing The Weinstein Company for $4.8 million dollars for fraud over the 2014 US release of his film One Chance. Some directors when faced with a flop and a raft of middling-at-best reviews would see this as a blip on the resume and move on. Frankel however is claiming that The Weinstein Company had promised to release the film on 800 US screens or pay $5 million in damages to Frankel and the film’s producers. In the event TWC released the film on 43 US screens to hit a heady opening US weekend take of $33,405 with a screen average of $777 (figures from http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=onechance.htm). So what about the film behind the story, can it be worth the fuss? I probably don’t need to tell you the answer, but here is my review from 2014 anyway.
One Chance is a very heavily fictionalised version of the story of Paul Potts, a phone shop manager who achieved a modicum of fame by winning TV talent competition Britain’s Got Talent in 2007 with a rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’. The raw material of this story has been taken by screenwriter Justin Zackman (writer of The Big Wedding and The Bucket List) and director David Frankel (Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) and very roughly hammered into a light comedy drama that clearly wishes to be labelled as ‘inspirational’.
We first meet Potts (Corden) as a child being raised in Wales, with a doting mother (a wasted Julie Walters parachuted in to supply a marketing hook) and a gruff father (Colm Meaney). He is perpetually picked on by neighborhood bullies for his weight and his love of classical singing. This opening leads to some confusion as it clearly establishes Potts as having been raised in Port Talbot and yet James Corden has a West Country accent. The truth is Potts only moved to Wales as an adult, but this would muck up the screenwriting-manual-by-numbers structure.
Conveniently ignoring the real Potts’ two brothers and one sister, along with his university degree and time spent as a Bristol City Liberal Democrat councillor. The film contrives to be a simple story of a downtrodden hero with a dream to sing for Pavarotti. He meets a good woman over the internet who encourages his artistic endeavours and when we wins £300 in a pub talent contest travels to Venice to study opera. Sadly given the opportunity to sing for his idol Potts bottles it returning to Wales as a humbled man who has eaten a generous portion of humble pie. To make matters worse his relationship hits a (mild) bend in the road (requiring a light tap on the brakes and possibly a drop down to third gear) when he fails to call his supportive girlfriend due to feelings of shame.
Further complications ensue, yadda yadda, and so on, Simon Cowell audition, the end.
It really is rather amazing how the filmmakers take a well known story and manage to wring every last drop of no suspense whatsoever from it. Most likely because of Cowell’s involvement, this film has all the edge of soft boiled egg. Corden is actually okay, his distracting accent comes and goes but he can handle light comedy fine. There is very little drama in the plot, which ultimately boils down to a son trying to win the approval of his father. The foremost problem is that Meaney’s character is so monumentally unlikable it is very difficult to care.
I do not have any idea what uber-producer Harvey Weinstein saw in this tale. I can’t imagine it being of any interest across the pond (it predates Corden’s rise to US fame as host of The Late Late Show), and it is over familiar for a UK audience. As bland as an over boiled sprout, it is the sort of movie would play tolerably after a family Christmas lunch as everyone falls asleep and granny farts gently in the corner.
Here’s the trailer.