First Night review: The Look of Love gives us porn king Paul Raymond as Citizen Kane – so where’s the dirt?

3.00

Steve Coogan is a lively lead, but Paul Raymond is just too superficial (and too sleazy) to carry a glitzy biopic

Michael Winterbottom’s biopic of the porn and property magnate Paul Raymond would like to have us believe that Raymond (who was one of Britain’s richest men) was Soho’s answer to Citizen Kane. The film, scripted by Matt Greenhalgh, even has an elaborate flashback-based screenplay similar to the one in Kane. Its problem is that Raymond is too sleazy, comic and superficial a character to take on any kind of tragic grandeur.

In spite of a very lively performance from Steve Coogan as the porn king of Soho, this is a film lacking emotional depth. You enjoy its recreation of 1970s Soho, which is vivid without lapsing into kitsch. Winterbottom brings the same anarchic energy to The Look Of Love which made 24 Hour Party People, his film about Manchester pop svengali Tony Wilson, so invigorating. There are plenty of colourful cameos from familiar faces (Stephen Fry as a judge, David Walliams as a venal priest, etc). The film is shot in bright, primary colours. The world of Soho clip joints and private members’ clubs is depicted in cheery, carnivalesque fashion. (Any squalor or exploitation is glossed over.)

Vicar’s daughter turned flame-haired porn star Fiona Richmond, played with great gusto by Tamsin Egerton, epitomises the very British approach to adult entertainment. Everyone here wants to enjoy themselves and make money in the process. Surprisingly, the filmmakers skim over Raymond’s childhood and background. We hear in passing how he changed his name (he was born Geoffrey Quinn) and he is always keen to remind us that he arrived in London as “a lad from Liverpool with five bob in his pocket”.

Early in the film, we see Raymond at the start of his porn career, when he put on shows with lion tamers and naked girls, posing like statues. Under the Lord Chamberlain’s regulations, the nudes were not allowed to move.

We see his marriage to Jean (Anna Friel) disintegrate as he shacks up with Richmond. It is all jolly, knockabout stuff but what we are not given is any sense of what drives Raymond (beyond his love of sex and property).

Coogan, a very skilled comedian and impersonator, is playing a character who is putting on an act. It’s little surprise, then, that at times, his Paul Raymond should seem like one of his comedy characters. His hairdo in the 1970s scenes makes him look strangely like the Formula One racer Jackie Stewart. When he is frolicking with Richmond and multiple other partners in his Ringo Starr-designed flat or spinning a line to the press, he’s hard to take seriously.

The key relationship is that between Raymond and his daughter, Debbie (Imogen Poots). She is a volatile figure with a self-destructive streak but he dotes on her and wants her to take over his empire. Poots conveys very movingly her character’s contradictions: her reckless hedonism but also her vulnerability. Just as Citizen Kane tried to turn his mistress into a famous opera singer, Raymond underwrites her attempts at becoming a star, putting her in one of his more preposterous shows. She doesn’t need to take her clothes off but she is required to sing – and she simply can’t cut it.

Debbie is by far the most complex character in The Look Of Love, the only one who really has an interior life. In his scenes with her, the film takes on some emotional urgency. Elsewhere, though, it plays like an enjoyable but one-dimensional comedy skit.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss