Film Review: Paul Raymond Biopic, “The Look of Love” (2013)

Ringo Star designed his flat you know?

Michael Winterbottom directed biopic “The Look of Love” is one of the many projects that Winterbottom and actor Steve Coogan have collaborated on. Coogan was cast to portray Joy Division’s music producer Tony Wilson in the film “24 Hour Party People” and after success has worked with Winterbottom on countless other projects, including Bafta nominated “The Trip” a largely improvised series in which he played a caricature of himself alongside fellow actor and comic Rob Brydon, as well as various other film roles. Coogan, although a man with terrific acting abilities and impressive comic timing does on the other hand also come with more than his fair share of baggage and a certain notoriety in the press. Countless women have in the past sold their stories and experiences with Coogan to the press and as result have made him known to most as a somewhat infamous ex-drug-taker and lothario. This all in consideration does make the Paul Raymond biopic a curious decision on his part. There is a feeling amongst the audience that Coogan is perhaps a little too ‘at home’ in his role as Raymond as they perhaps do share one too many similarities in their own lives. Respectively Coogan’s acting ability still shines through in this role, playing a character with traits that Coogan is gladly trying to distance himself from in his own life.

Paul Raymond the central character was a well-known and respected club and property owner often regarded as “the king of Soho”. The-look-of-love-film-stillHe enjoyed a life of promiscuity and drug abuse (clear parallels with the man who portrays him in the film), he was the creator of ‘Men Only’ magazine which soon became a huge success, and also opened a popular Soho club; ‘The Raymond Review Bar’, his stage shows were almost always sell-out shows, and after being subject to much controversy his final worth made him the richest man in Britain. The film tackles Paul Raymond’s life in a way which shows both his rise and downfall’s in Soho throughout his glory days of the 50’s and 60’s, being a well-respected property owner, to 1992 when the film ends by which time Raymond had lost his daughter after a heroin overdose and became himself a recluse. It’s the tragic story of a man who cared too much but about the wrong things, he had all of the money and property in the world, but because of this he lost his daughter; Debbie who was trying to impress and on some scale even imitate her father as she longed for his success and to be a part of the business.

The film fortunately benefits from the star of the show Steve Coogan who can with ease mix comedy and tragedy within the same sentence. That being said I did also feel during a viewing of the film that at times Coogan drifted into Alan Partridge ‘territory’, with occasional one liners and often portraying Raymond as a laughable and sometimes pathetic character, almost as If at times we’re laughing at him, not with him. Overuse of the line “Ringo Star actually designed my flat” gives a humorous view of Raymond, as he who has everything choses this to be his talking point on more than one occasion, as if everything else is not enough, he’s also friends with The Beatles, “all except Yoko” he helpfully adds. An element of the film that I wasn’t entirely a fan of was that certain bigger events I felt could’ve been divulged in more detail and were however somewhat glossed over. An example of this is Debbie, Raymond’s daughter in the film was eventually briefly seen in various different relationships however only one of which was ever explored during the film, I feel that this aspect was probably to give the feeling that these relationships were all brief and perhaps only one of real significance, but despite this I still am of the view that this is just a flaw or a short-coming in the script, maybe even they just couldn’t access any details on the relationships from people at Raymond’s estate. On top of this, Debbie also has a short battle with cancer (which she beats), however this largely life-changing circumstance is merely hinted at in the film and hardly ever referenced afterwards. Whatever the reason, it could’ve possibly been tackled in a better way.

Featuring in the film in minor cameos and even a larger role with Chris Addison playing Tony Power, British comedians are present throughout the film and help to give the film a lighter mood and a lot of personality as well as more comic styling to contrast the darker scenes occupying a large portion of the film. Paul Raymond was the perfect character for Steve Coogan to portray with their countless similarities it’s not difficult to see why Winterbottom didn’t think twice about making the film once Coogan had suggested he play the role of Raymond, as the film is more fitting for Coogan than possibly any other piece of work from his entire back-catalogue. I rate this film which is a rather glamorous depiction of the life and work of Paul Raymond, overall a 7 out of 10, and can see it possibly gaining a cult following especially from fans of Coogan or of Winterbottom’s brilliant direction.

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