Director: David Frankel
Starring: James Corden, Alexandra Roach, Julie Walters, Colm Meaney, Mackenzie Crooks
Written by: Justin Zackham
Running Time: 103 mins
Release date: 25th October 2013
Recently we have had a host of biopic: Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate, Diana in Diana and now the one we’ve all been waiting for…Paul Potts! Huh? The first winner of Britain’s Got Talent? The very same. So far so mediocre. That’s where the trouble really starts. Who is honestly that interested in an opera singing mobile phone salesman who happen to win a TV talent show? Hardly set the world alight. Wait, his story is inspirational in a sort of Billy Elliott way. Except this comes across more like Billy Liar.
Paul Potts has the voice of an angel but as a child, the boys at school obviously didn’t appreciate his musical talents and he became the easy victim of bullies. Years later, refusing to work in the local furnace with his dad, Paul has a small job in a local Carphone Warehouse. He has met a girl, Julie-Ann, and his passion for opera has landed him the chance to train in Vienna and sing in front of Pavarotti. However, nerves takes over and from that point on, Paul’s life is one disaster after another, from having dangerous illnesses to almost losing the woman he loves to bizarre accidents. Then he discovers an advert for a talent contest and the rest, as they say, is history.
This is a flashy, produced-within-an-inch-of-its life, Hollywood interpretation of Potts life, most of which isn’t up on the screen and has been sugar-coated to make it seem much more interesting that it really is. We get the small town boy done good tale but having known the outcome (and thankfully we aren’t given a blow-by-blow account of the whole BGT events) it lacks any real tension. It’s heading for the end goal of super-stardom and so everything else seem superficial and somewhat pointless.
Director David Frankel, who made the far superior The Devil Wears Prada, knows what his target audience want: a feel-good tale of a man fighting against adversity. However, never have I seen a man fight so many adversities, the only thing that was lacking in his life was Somalian pirates taking over his ship! So as one disaster befalls the hapless singer after an another, you come to wonder if this is just a collection of anecdotes collected from the sob stories that Simon Cowell’s X Factor and BGT are constantly churning out.
What is also hugely problematic with the film is the casting of James Corden. I’m not a huge fan of Mr Corden’s work and so seeing him playing the shy, confidence-lacking Potts does stretch the imagination. I do have to admit he does play him as a likeable guy and there are moments when he is genuinely funny but what really bothered me was his accent. Potts was brought up in Bristol, yet here he has spent his life in Port Talbot in Wales. Surrounded by Welsh accents, how is it that Corden’s Potts speaks with a strange Essex/Bristol twang?
The usually reliable Julie Walters, as Paul’s doting mother, is given so little to do, she might as well telephoned her performance in, while Colm Meaney, as father, is, well Colm Meaney with a Welsh/Irish accent. Thank goodness, then, for Alexandra Roach, as Paul’s girlfriend, Julie-Ann. The saving grace of the film. She sparkles, out acting everyone on-screen with charm, wit and huge personality. When Paul is seduced by an Italian beauty and he turns her down, stating that he has “the one” at home, it’s about the only believable thing on-screen. You literally go, “yep, I would have done the same!”. The chemistry between her and Corden also works and I would have rather seen a film about their domestic life than the “world’s most unluckiest man” tale that is delivered.
Paul Potts has a great voice and I was totally caught up in the events when he first appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, like the rest of the nation was but is he a strong enough subject for a movie? No. In fact, this would have been a better bet as a Sunday afternoon drama when the weather wasn’t good. Is it the feel-good movie of the year that the makers so desperately want us to believe? No. That awards certainly goes to Sunshine On Leith. This is more like the So-what movie of the year. Still, the Carphone Warehouse will be pleased.