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Movies Review

'The Look of Love' review: Steve Coogan plays porn mogul Paul Raymond

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Released on Friday, Apr 26 2013

Director: Michael Winterbottom; Screenwriter: Matt Greenhalgh; Starring: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton; Running time: 101 mins; Certificate: 18


24 Hour Party People's Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan head from Tony Wilson to Paul Raymond with their latest movie The Look of Love, a biopic of the porn impresario who transformed London's Soho district and eventually became one of the richest men in Britain.

Raymond's story is one of highs, lows, hedonism and personal tragedy. It's a classic tale we've seen done often before, and Look of Love certainly shares DNA with Winterbottom and Coogan's previous collaboration on Party People.

Rises and falls were also memorably depicted in Martin Scorsese films Goodfellas and Casino, but here Coogan's protagonist skirts nearer to the boundaries of what's legal and what's not. He opens the Raymond Revuebar strip club, a private members' venue, to navigate around strict laws on flashing flesh. Lord Chamberlain's theatre act prohibited nude models from moving, yet Raymond cannily managed to get around this with podiums that shifted across the stage. Reform soon came, however, as London charged headfirst into the swinging '60s.

Imogen Poots as Debbie Raymond in The Look of Love
In Look of Love, we see Coogan's Raymond earn riches from a property empire, strip clubs and a publishing company spearheaded by top shelf magazine Men Only.

His tastes for the finer things in life proved problematic, though. His marriage to Jean (Anna Friel) initially looks like it could withstand even serial infidelity - in one early scene Raymond arrives home early and is met by a wife seemingly happy to let it slide so long as he returns to her.

However, their partnership disintegrates when Raymond begins an affair with Tamsin Egerton's statuesque performer Amber, who later renames herself Fiona Richmond and becomes integral to his magazine business.

Winterbottom and screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh also probe Raymond's relationship with daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots), tracking her from expelled schoolgirl to unsuccessful stage performer. Raymond makes moves to transition his empire over to Debbie, but as breast cancer and her drug addiction take hold, the story becomes one tinged with sadness. Raymond's relationship with women provides the backbone of the film, and Friel, Egerton and Poots are all outstanding. Raymond recalls being abandoned by his father at a young age, which goes some way to explaining his difficult relationship with sons Howard (Matthew Beard) and Derry (Liam Boyle), and why he indulges Debbie's casual whims.

Look of Love never quite plunges its lead character into the emotional, reclusive Howard Hughes-like abyss that befell the actual Raymond. There's foreshadowing, but Coogan keeps a playful lightness of touch foregrounded for the most part, reeling off impressions of Sean Connery and Marlon Brando, and regaling all who'll listen about his friendship with The Beatles. The unavoidable flickers of Alan Partridge often shine through, but that doesn't hinder Coogan from being an excellent, avuncular guide for this tour through the life of a man once dubbed The King of Soho.

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