The Look of Love (18)
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton, Chris Addison, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Stephen Fry
Running time: 101 minutes
PAUL Raymond is psychic, he tells a questioning journalist – he predicts that if you fill a show with naked ladies, audiences will come in their droves.
Thankfully, Michael Winterbottom’s take on the king of Soho is a little more in-depth – although there is a fair share of flesh on show.
Steve Coogan teams up with the director once again, stepping into the roll of the porn impresario perfectly and portraying him as both the charming, life and soul of the party type, as well as shrewd businessman and impeccable PR man.
The Look of Love starts promisingly, told through glitzy flashback and moving from black and white and into colour, all the while retaining a retro revue show feel – not to mention a cracking soundtrack.
The film chronicles the three women in Raymond’s life as much as the man himself – the strong-willed wife, Jean (Friel), who secured a record divorce settlement before coming back to pose as a centrefold; the lover who later became Men Only writer Fiona Richmond (Egerton); and of course, the ill-fated daughter, Debbie (Poots).
The relationship between Raymond and Debbie becomes central focus – laying down an assertion that the real-life figure may have spoiled his daughter with confectionery and drugs alike, but that her untimely death had a significant effect on him.
Still, you can’t help but feel that it has too gentle a touch, maintaining Raymond as a likeable rogue despite issues with infidelity, lawsuits galore (many left out) and part in Debbie’s untimely drug overdose.
Poots is convincing as the wild child daddy’s girl, although her solo rendition of The Look of Love — a brief foray into performing — goes on a little too long for comfort.
Friel and Egerton turn in good performances and work well with Coogan, but full credit goes to Chris Addison, playing against type as Men Only editor Tony Power — one bushy beard later and he’s the loathsome sleaze audiences will love to hate.
The film garnered critical acclaim at Sundance and the Glasgow Film Festival, and although it can’t be labelled a probing biography, is worth a look (loving, or otherwise) when out on April 26.