Before Susan Boyle mania swept the globe, there was Paul Potts, the unassuming, opera-loving, mobile-phone salesman who auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent in 2007.
In this loose biopic, the extremely likeable James Corden plays Potts, an awkward, overweight kid whose preference for Puccini ensures that he is bullied relentlessly growing up in the Welsh coastal town of Port Talbot. Living a modest existence at home with his parents, he works away the days at the local Carphone Warehouse store until he meets the charming Julz (Alexandra Roach) through an online dating site. Julz’s support and encouragement provide the necessary impetus for Paul to dismiss a career at the local metal works and pursue singing, much to his father’s dismay. After a series of setbacks, Potts travels to Venice to study opera where he comes face-to-face with his idol Pavarotti.
What disappoints about this film is the intervention of both the director and screenwriter, who seem determined to recreate Billy Elliot at every turn. The film has clearly been put through the Hollywood wringer to cater to the US market – numerous scenes seem forced as the film tries to evoke the working-class, pub-dwelling Britain made famous in films such as The Full Monty and Brassed Off. Potts actually grew up in Bristol and not in an industrial town in Wales. Despite these contrivances, the film genuinely pulls on the heartstrings and it’s difficult not to get caught up in the sentimentality of this unlikely story of the shy tenor who wants to win the nation’s biggest popularity contest.
Given Potts’ incredible rise to the top of the charts, which leads to him performing for the Queen, you can’t help but wonder whether the embellishments to the script were somewhat unnecessary. Maybe Potts can sing for himself.
BY TIM ARMITAGE
One Chance is in cinemas now.