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Look of Love, The (AF)


Stars: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Tamsin Egerton, Anna Friel, Chris Addison, James Lance, Matthew Beard, Simon Bird, David Walliams, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, Shirley Henderson

Director: Michael Winterbottom

“My name is Paul Raymond. Welcome to my world of erotica”.

Director Michael Winterbottom vividly recreates the Soho of the Sixties and Seventies when Raymond rose to fame, and fortune as the ‘King of Soho’ by buying property and, more famously, by selling sex on stage at his notorious Raymond's Revue Bar and in adult magazines, notably 'Men Only'.

Unfortunately, period recreation is the best thing about this increasingly tedious biopic, which, for me, was wrecked from the start by the deeply inadequate performance of Steve Coogan in the title role. He seems to believe that all there is to acting well is to adopt a series of wigs and false moustaches and then reuse his Alan Partridge characterisation instead of coming up with something interesting. (That his fatally unbelievable characterization is being hailed in some quarters as masterly acting may well becomes one of the cinema’s great mysteries and spawn deeply pretentious writing).

Matt Greenhalgh’s screenplay, like Raymond himself, concentrates on moral and sexual titillation - we see Raymond in bed with two women, enough female nudity to satisfy the film’s producers, Film Four, and avalanches of cocaine being sniffed by practically the entire cast, especially Imogen Poots as Raymond’s wannabe performer and drug addicted daughter Deborah, whose death at the age of 36 from an overdose reportedly caused Raymond to become a recluse. Poots is rather better than her material, as are Anna Friel as his wife and Tamsin Egerton as his lover who rose to fame of a sort, as ‘actress’ Fiona Richmond.

I was mildly amused by the occasional line. “I know all the Beatles”, boasts Raymond, “Very friendly with them” adding (and this was the only eye-opener in the film for me) that Ringo had designed his apartment.

Given the vacuum at the centre that is Coogan, Winterbottom gets through the film (adding one more bottom to the frequent female gluteals on display?) without making it anything else but dull.

That said, he deserves high praise for devoting almost no screen time to Stephen Fry (playing a smug QC), David Walliams as a trendy Soho vicar and Matt Lucas in drag. That is the work of a true artist.

Winterbottom has worked with Coogan several times before The Look of Love. Let’s hope this is their last collaboration.

Alan Frank

UK/USA 2013. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Technicolor.
100 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 3, Swearing 2.

Review date: 24 Apr 2013