The Look Of Love

The Look Of Love


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Michael Winterbottom's latest, The Look Of Love was originally to be titled The King Of Soho but the name switch - necessitated by the fact that Raymond's son Howard is also developing a film about his father - is better than the porn king's straight forward label as it reflects much of what Winterbottom is driving it.

Glamour models may give their readers the 'look' of love, but scratch the surface and things are much less glossy than they first appear. Raymond's relationships, too, often had as much to do with looking and wanting instant gratification than the L word. And what happens if you love someone so much that you can never say no to them - even when they show signs of self-destructing?

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Winterbottom's film takes us on a whistle-stop tour through the increased freedoms of the mucky mag and revue show business, as we see Raymond (Steve Coogan, who certainly has the look of the porn king down pat), start to build the magazine and property empire that would see him declared the richest man in Britain. Beginning in black and white, when only naked, stationary 'tableaux vivants' were permitted onstage, we travel with Raymond through the sexual revolution of the Sixties and Seventies before washing up in the coke-fuelled excesses of the Eighties and early Nineties.

Although recreating the period details with the accuracy we've come to expect from the 24 Hour Party People director - the buttoned up black and white 'glamour' giving way to increasingly lurid neon - this is very much a film about Raymond and the ladies he, perhaps, loved most. Anna Friel is excellent as his feisty, no-nonsense wife Jean, who tolerates his dalliances as long as he comes home and Tamsin Egerton fleshes out the character of his long-term lover Fiona Richmond in more ways than one. Imogen Poots, meanwhile, plays his doomed daughter Debbie - in many ways a spoilt little girl lost - to the hilt. In contrast, the men in Raymond's life, even his offspring, get short shrift from him.

The only thing that threatens to throw you out of the movie is the presence of so many currently popular comics. Sure, there is a whisper of Alan Partridge about some of Raymond's sotto voce asides to his workforce or friends but, I suspect, that's as much to do with the real Raymond's larger than life persona than anything Coogan brings to the table.

More harmful to the suspension of disbelief is the presence of Miles Jupp, Stephen Fry, David Walliams, Matt Lucas and Dara O'Briain, although Chris Addison gets away with it by hiding under a beard of Dave Lee Travis proportions. The others, however, are such well-known faces that you find yourself thinking about comic pastiche when you should be focusing on the drama. O'Briain, in particular, pops up as an Eighties comic but looking as old as he does today and the timewarp dislocates you from the moment.

For the most part, though, this is a serious and entertaining character study - stripping down the lives of Soho and Raymond - that has the looks and acting talent to win over a crowd.

Reviewed on: 20 Jan 2013
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Biopic of porn king Paul Raymond.
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Director: Michael Winterbottom

Writer: Matt Greenhalgh

Starring: Steve Coogan, Anna Friel, Imogen Poots, Tamsin Egerton, Chris Addison, David Walliams

Year: 2013

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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