Film review: The Look of Love (18)


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The Independent Culture

Michael Winterbottom's biopic of Soho porn and property baron Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) is a Janus-faced affair. On the one hand, it's a bit of a romp.

Raymond's "world of erotica" is portrayed affectionately and with very British irony. From the 1950s-set black-and-white scene in which we see his nude models fleeing from a lion to his 1970s parties in his luxurious apartment designed by Ringo Starr, the film plays up the comic dimension.

Jaunty music adds to the levity, as do cameos from David Walliams and Stephen Fry. The scenes from Raymond's revues and plays, notably Pyjama Tops, are enjoyably ludicrous, as are the many stunts involving porn star Fiona Richmond (Tamsin Egerton), who at one stage gallivants around Soho (un)dressed as Lady Godiva.

However, Matt Greenhalgh's screenplay pulls in two different directions. Alongside the seaside-postcard humour, a darker story is told. Coogan's well-judged performance captures the hedonistic side of Raymond's personality and his insecurities. He dotes on his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) but she is wilfully self-destructive.

However much Soho real estate he buys, he can't protect her. The film sometimes seems evasive, glossing over the exploitative side of Raymond's business. It isn't as polished as might have been expected. Its strength and pathos lie in the focused depiction of Raymond's relationship with Debbie. Astute and ruthless in his dealings with everyone else, he is in thrall to her.