Cinemadope: Sing Out

We Americans love our underdogs. From day one, our national bent has been to celebrate the striver: the immigrant who arrived with spare change but went on to build an empire is the American Dream. And even if most of us never quite see that sort of success—the average American’s dream these days is more likely to revolve around finding affordable health insurance—we all harbor a small warm flicker of goodwill for those that do.

It’s a feeling that has turned into a pop cultural phenomenon in recent years with the explosion of televised competitions—shows like American Idol and The Voice, which reward talented performers, as well as a few that take a more businesslike approach by searching out entrepreneurial goldmines just waiting for discovery. And while we might snark a bit at some of the early entrants—the tone-deaf singer who is sure she’s the next Beyoncé—we also seem pretty invested in it all by the time the last episode airs.

In director David Frankel’s (The Devil Wears Prada) new film One Chance, the story of Paul Potts proves to be one for the ages. An anonymous mobile phone salesman by day, Potts dreamed by night of singing opera. When he shuffled onto the stage during the first episode of the UK show Britain’s Got Talent, his crooked teeth and plain black suit hid a voice that would carry him to new heights far from South Wales.

But while the “overnight success” captured the attention of a nation, it was a long, tough, slog for Potts.

That story is the real tale of One Chance; the story of a young boy who falls hard for opera, and despite his unlikely circumstances—blue collar roots, the subject of bullying at school and doubt everywhere else—continues, doggedly, to pursue the one thing that he feels meant to do.

It may not have turned out exactly as he hoped, but it’s a remarkable journey that reminds us that dreams, however ephemeral they might seem, can have real power in a real world. Tony Award winner James Corden (One Man, Two Guvnors) stars as Potts, and is supported by a well-seasoned supporting cast including Mackenzie Crook (The Office) and Julie Walters (Mamma Mia!, Billy Elliot).

Also this week: Two special screenings hit area screens, beginning at Cinemark in Hadley with a Sunday afternoon screening of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, director Amy Heckerling’s 1982 stoner classic. A young Sean Penn stars as Jeff Spicoli, a burnt-out surfer facing off against hardball teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston, perfectly cast). Other high school highjinks (making out, concerts, the mall) also make appearances. See it again and count how many young actors—Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, Forest Whitaker, and more—you recognize from their roles later in life.

And on Tuesday night at 8 p.m., Amherst Cinema brings in a special showing of At Middleton as part of the NY Film Critics Series. Director Adam Rogers’ film stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga as two middle-aged strangers who fall for each other when they bring their kids for a college campus tour. The sneak preview will be followed by a live-broadcast Q&A with the stars and director, hosted by Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers.•


Jack Brown can be reached at

Author: Jack Brown

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