Paul Potts was always someone who loved singing just a bit too much. And too loudly. Even as a kid in primary school he believed opera was in his soul and needed to be given a voice.
Of course, that wasn't always such a good thing. For you see, not everybody loved opera the way he did, and not everybody loved the sound of his voice the way his mum did. And so there was always somebody who wanted to chase him down and make him shut his gob. (That broken-out tooth on the right side of his mouth is a testament to that.)
Paul's love of opera and his longing to sing it made his life an endless drama full of music and violence and romance and comedy. Just like an opera, when you stop and think about it.
The problem is, Paul isn't sure he's got what it takes to really be the operatic virtuoso he longs to be. He's reached and worked and struggled and stumbled all his life when it comes to his vocal training. And to be quite up front about it, he's just a chubby, average-looking nobody who works at a Carphone Warehouse in Port Talbot, Wales.
He's a nobody who keeps dreaming of that one magical moment. That single opportunity to show what he's capable of. That chance to take the stage and sing his heart out in front of thousands.
Could such a thing really be out there for him? Does he indeed have enough talent?
Paul is a middle-of-the-road nice guy, and there's inspiration to be found in that. He stays passionate in his love for opera, stays upright and true with those he loves and even reaches out a hand of friendship to a guy who's tormented him all his life.
Still, there's a sad-sack, one-step-forward-two-steps-back side of Paul's existence that always seems to drag him down whenever things start looking up. But that's where his girlfriend (and later, wife) Julie-Ann makes a difference. Starting out as texting "pen pals," the two eventually meet in person and it becomes evident that they are made for each other. She, in particular, is exactly what he needs, since even in the worst situations, Julz remains positive. "I will do all I can to fill our lives with as much music and love and happiness as I can possibly manage," she tells Paul at one low point.
That's not to say Paul is a selfish sort. For he goes out of his way to help others when he can. So much so that his mother asks during a stressful moment, "Why can't he put himself first for a change?" Julz quickly responds, "Because then he'd be just like the rest of us. And he's not, is he?"
Paul is elsewhere encouraged to be true to himself and not worry about the judgmental world around him. And we hear about a family's determination toward dreams. And though Paul's father is often a staunch critic of Paul's musical pursuits, he eventually comes to his son to voice his love, saying, "The only real mark of a father's success, is how far a child surpasses his father."
A group of school children sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" in rehearsal for a Christmas concert. Paul sings a segment of a song to Julz that speaks of God's blessed will and a lover's devotion. Paul's friend and workmate Bradden talks of participating in a role-playing game that involves magical creatures and wizards.
When a pretty girl kisses Paul after they sing gloriously together, he backs away, voicing his devotion to Julz. "You have a wonderful heart," the woman tells him. Indeed, other than a quick kiss at the train station, we don't see Paul and Julz embrace and share a kiss until the two marry. And it's made clear that their wedding night is their first time to be together sexually (and Paul's first time ever).
Not so for Bradden, who has an ongoing relationship with a woman he talks about "shagging" over a weekend adventure. We later meet her; she wears formfitting leather and feather outfits. And after hitting a bully, she reports that it's made her "all hot and bothered." Paul's mom tells a brief story about Paul being "conceived in the backseat of a car near a pub in Bristol." She later jokes that she'd have to leave her husband "if he wasn't such an exquisite lover." We see Paul wearing boxer shorts.
Paul is bullied on a number of occasions, from a very young age on up into his twenties. As a boy, bullies push, shove and punch him in several scenes. And while being chased, our chubby hero runs pell-mell into a pole, bloodying his lip and breaking a tooth. Much later, one of those same bullies knocks an adult Paul down, steals his prize money and begins kicking him viciously. (Bradden comes to Paul's defense and Bradden's girlfriend smacks the bully in the head with a guitar.) Later still, Paul's dad punches that same guy in the face after the thug badmouths his son.
As a boy, Paul passes out and thumps to the floor, sustaining a concussion. As an adult, he's hit by a car, shattering his collarbone, pelvis, four ribs and arm.
Crude or Profane Language
One or two uses each of the s-word, "a--," "d--n," "b-gger" and "twat." A guy flips his middle finger. Jesus' and God's names are together misused a half-dozen or so times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
On a number of occasions―including scenes in a pub and a talent contest hall―men toss back beer as part of their revelry. Julz slugs back a beer as well. Paul and others (including the great opera singer Pavarotti) drink wine. Bradden staggers around, drunk on crème de menthe after losing his girlfriend.
Other Negative Elements
There are several lowball gags tossed at Paul by his bullying archnemesis. Bradden offers up a masturbatory joke. And Paul's father crudely lambasts his son with, "There's a waiting list as long as a donkey's knob for your job."
The truth is, there are some movies that you shouldn't know too much about going in. In this case, if you know zip-a-dee-do-dah about the real-world schlubby Brit who bears the name Paul Potts, whose life this movie is based on, then his underdog's tale will likely feel all the more uplifting. And its never-give-up anthem will pack in all the more "Nessun Dorma" gusto.
Is it formulaic? Oh, yeah! The filmmaking cast and crew―including Marley & Me director David Frankel―has pulled out all the required stops and pounded the expected emotional keys to make sure this biopic pleases the matinee crowd it's aimed at. But I must admit that the finale still brought tears to my eyes and infused me with a sense of inspiration—about how the little guy can sometimes make good when he tries hard enough and has the right people in his life. Plus, beyond the whole musical thing, it's downright great to see a happy bloke get hitched with his virginity intact and his honor unscarred.
There is one thing that should have been given no chance in One Chance: My complaint about this pic is its occasionally and contextually percussive foul language. There are an unfortunate handful of exclamations that feel churlish standing on stage next to the otherwise sweet movie's charm.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
James Corden as Paul Potts; Alexandra Roach as Julie-Ann 'Julz' Cooper; Colm Meaney as Dad; Julie Walters as Mom; Mackenzie Crook as Bradden; Jemima Rooper as Hydrangea
The Weinstein Company
October 10, 2014