After collaborating on 24 Hour Party People (2002) and A Cock and Bull Story (2005), two equally unconventional and uncompromising approaches to the biopic and novel adaptation respectively, prolific writer/director Michael Winterbottom and star Steve Coogan coupled up once again to tell the story of Paul Raymond, the property and smut tycoon once honoured with the title of richest man in the UK. While hit-and-miss in the comedy department and narratively all over the place, the double-act's first two collaborations were certainly all the more interesting for it, tossing formulas out of the window as they tried to grasp the nature and energy of their subjects, 'Madchester' music producer Tony Wilson and Laurence Sterne's famously unfilmable novel The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman.
Perhaps the most disappoint thing about The Look of Love is just how formulaic it is, despite trying to convince us otherwise by peppering the narrative with clearly ad-libbed vignettes involving a small score of British comedians. Beginning in the 1950's, and in black-and- white, when Raymond was working as a sea-side impresario, the picture then does a good job capturing the glitz and glamour of the 1960's, as Raymond's interests evolve from owning every property he can lay his hands on to offering titillating entertainment the stuffy yet curious masses. He puts on an awful theatrical production that claims to be a romp with added boobies, which is panned critically but does little but stir up more interest. After the energetic, entertaining rise, the film plummets into a non-stop barrage of cocaine, orgies and excess for its second act.
Raymond's wife Jean (Anna Friel) seems happy with her comfortable life of luxury and even lets her husband have sex with other women, but she is soon abandoned after the beautiful starlet of his new show, Fiona (Tamsin Egerton), catches his eye. By the 1970s, his 'tasteful' shows have given way to pornographic (but hugely popular) magazine Men Only, with Fiona as one of its most popular attractions, and his hedonistic lifestyle spirals further and further out of control. While his riches grow, he increasingly isolates the people around him. Except that is, for his daughter Debbie (the lovely Imogen Poots), an entitled yet troubled girl who shares her father's fondness for excess, and who seems to be the only person Raymond actually cares about.
Just what attracted Winterbottom and Coogan to Paul Raymond is a mystery. Making a movie about such an unappealing arsehole can certainly be interesting done the right way, but The Love of Love doesn't seem keen on saying anything profound about the man, the business he was in, or the society he operated in. Coogan hardly stretches himself either, playing Raymond as Alan Partridge playing Raymond, randomly throwing in a Marlon Brando impression and pretentiously quoting artists more intelligent than him. After a lively first half, events quickly descend into scene after scene of naked flesh and terrible wigs; all style and very little substance at all. It pains me to say it, as Winterbottom is one of the best British directors around who never seems content with playing in one genre, and even his lesser works always have talking points. But The Look of Love is empty and long, albeit bolstered by an impressive Poots and a wonderfully smarmy Chris Addison in a smaller role.
The Look of Love
Biography / Comedy / Drama
The Look of Love
Biography / Comedy / Drama
After the untimely death of his daughter, Paul Raymond reflects on his life. Rising from a mind-reading act, Raymond grew to have a fabulously successful career as an erotica magnate that would make him the richest man in Britain. However, for all his material success, Paul's appetites mess up his personal life, such as alienating his wife with his philandering. Furthermore, even as he challenged his society's sexual mores, Paul's relationship with his daughter proves troublingly problematic as she came of age. While trying to be the best father he could, Paul gradually comes to realize that his proclivities have impoverished him in ways that mere money cannot address.
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August 21, 2013 at 02:31 PM