Sundance Film Festival review: The Look of Love - Steve Coogan plays a porn baron but this film feels like an interminably dull orgy

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Michael Winterbottom's biopic about 'King of Soho' Paul Raymond reunites him with the Alan Patridge star - but despite Coogan's  porn-appropriate moustache, he doesn't fit the bill

According to Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love, porn emperor Paul Raymond’s naked Soho revues really take off in the 60s when the Daily Express thunders against the amount of naked female flesh on display. The show sells out immediately.

Winterbottom will hope British sensibilities haven’t changed that much, because this film has mounds of flesh in it – almost entirely female, and a lot of it cupped in the hands of Steve Coogan, who plays Raymond. It’s to be expected in a biopic of ‘The King of Soho’, who in 1992 became Britain’s richest man off the back of the sex industry he built up, but after a while it starts to feel like an interminably dull orgy.

That may be the impression the director wants to convey – how Raymond discarded one wife for a mistress, and lost her because he couldn’t cope with anything less than three in a bed – only to end up padding around alone in a faux 007, leopard-print penthouse, decorated, Raymond informs us a few times, by Ringo Starr.

However, Raymond is no Larry Flynt, and Coogan, despite his handlebar, porn-appropriate moustache, doesn’t  fill the screen. At various points, it is Alan Partridge getting luckier than he ever dreamed of with the ladies.  No clue is given as to how a boy “ off the boat in Liverpool with five bob in his pocket” (another favourite Paul Raymond saying)  had the drive to acquire an estimated fortune of 650 million pounds; beyond him noting, that in his first career as a fraudulent stage-show mindreader, he realised his act was received better with a naked girl in tow. “ And that, “ he concludes with a wink, “ is the only time I ever read a mind accurately.”

The girls, however fare better, with Anna Friel giving a feisty spark to Raymond’s first wife, while Tamsin Egerton upgrades effortlessly from St Trinian’s posh totty to his long-term lover, Fiona Richmond.

Imogen Poots plays Debbie, Paul Raymond’s daughter, and the designated heir to his empire until her death from heroin in 1992. Their relationship is  the heart of the film – how a man could acquire millions but his beloved daughter slipped through his fingers, leaving him devastated until his death in 2008. But by the time Debbie is gone, so is the audience emotion, deadened by all the threesomes and drug abuse.

With cameos from David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry and an Inbetweener, it has the air of a scheme cooked up between mates in a Soho bar – and this is where the film excels, showing the heart of London through the decades, in all its sexy, seedy glory. It has heart – and that is where The Look of Love falls short. Just like the business that gave Raymond his millions, it somehow lacks soul.

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