3 stars
While not a household name exactly, during the 1970’s and 80’s the influence of Paul Raymond had extended into just about every British home, and under every teenage boy’s bed. His speciality was erotic art (light on art, heavy on erotica) that made him Britain’s richest man. Yeah, ok, he was a porn baron but one whose life and energy made him the toast of his parties and a landlord with sizeable reach. Rich pickings for director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) and frequent collaborator Steve Coogan (The Trip).

Where you might think The Look Of Love would be a great yarn about the business of sex, Winterbottom and writer Matt Greenhalgh have shifted their focus to the relationship blind spots of free-love Raymond – notably his second wife (Tasmin Egerton), ex-wife (Anna Friel) and in particular their daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) with whom he was close, very close (but not that close). It's a choice that ultimately doesn't pay off as it reduces Raymond to a super-cool Dad who didn't know how to be a father. In any other construct fertile ground for emotional drama but this is Paul Raymond, King of Soho, Porn Baron and Britain's Richest Man. You’d hope for a bit more grit.

Accordingly, and surprisingly for the writer of Control and Nowhere Boy, Matt Greenhalgh's script doesn't ignite and leaves you feeling that most of the good bits have been generated unscripted by Coogan instead. Michael Winterbottom, no stranger to emotional drama himself (Trishna or A Mighty Heart), fails to grasp the humanity under the drug-fuelled, show-biz trappings. Nor is there background to Raymond's business dealings, surely ripe narrative territory, while Debbie's tragic demise simply doesn't press any of the emotional buttons it should.

"A normal life is for normal people." No doubt, yet various cameos from the likes of Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas and David Walliams pass without gaining traction, leaving Coogan's affable presence alone to carry what is a watchable story certainly, but one that's far from the firecracker it could have been.


Previewed at Sony Theatrette, Sydney, on 25 March 2013

3 stars
Oscar Wilde’s aphorism, “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars,” is particularly apt in relation to the life of one of the most successful showmen in recent British history, Paul Raymond, who was also fond of quoting the saying. He made his fortune from realising early in his career that ‘men like looking at naked women.’ Michael Winterbottom’s (Everyday / Trishna / 24 Hour Party People) The Look Of Love, brings to life the heyday of Raymond (played by Steve Coogan - 24 Hour Party People / The Trip), from when he came to prominence in the late ‘50s after opening the Raymond Revuebar strip club in London’s Soho through to the death of his daughter in 1992. By the end of this heady period he owned so many properties in the West End he was known as ‘The King of Soho.’

Raymond was a man who loved women, especially when they were naked, and he made a motza from shows that would be deemed ‘politically incorrect’ these days. His empire grew from revues like ‘Pyjama Tops,’ which was declared the worse show ever to hit the West End (but, thanks to the nudity on display, lasted five years!) and from his soft-porn publishing business. He had a fractious relationship with his first wife Jean (Anna Friel – Limitless), dumping her for a sexpot called Amber (Tamsin Edgerton – St Trinian’s / St Trinian’s II) who he eventually married and who became the face, tits and arse of Men Only, his most successful soft-porn magazine. However, it was only in his relationship with his talentless daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots – Performance / Fright Night) that he was able to develop any real, long-lasting love. When Debbie died from a drug overdose Raymond was destroyed, becoming a recluse and shutting himself away in a penthouse in The Ritz until his death in 2008.

Matt Greenhalgh’s (Control / Nowhere Boy) script is well researched, throwing light on a period in swinging London when boys from Liverpool were able to make it to the big time. Raymond made a point of making it known that he was a great pal of the Beatles and that Ringo Starr had helped to design his rather palatial, but kitsch, apartment. The groovy ‘60s soundtrack is also terrific, as are the authentic production, make-up and costume designs. The lead roles are well cast and Coogan delivers a rather sad performance as a man who led a complex existence living out the adage that, “Where there’s muck, there’s money.” Mention must also be given to cameo performances by Stephen Fry, who plays a barrister, and the Little Britain duo, David Walliams as a rather weird vicar who hangs out backstage in the girls’ dressing rooms, and Matt Lucas in a very brief scene as a Divine look-alike.

The Look Of Love is not one of Winterbottom’s finest works but it does take you into a world that some may remember and many are fascinated by. If anything, it shows how ‘money can’t buy you love’ - as the story unfolds and Raymond’s fortune heads for the stars, his personal life falls into the gutter. There’s an emptiness at the heart of this film that reflects, ultimately, the emptiness at the heart of Raymond’s life. One can only assume that this is exactly what Winterbottom was aiming for but, for the filmgoer, the experience ends up feeling a little bit empty, too.


Previewed at the Director’s Suite, Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park, Sydney, on 19 June 2010

Stacks Image 3752

Steve Coogan
Imogen Poots
Anna Friel
Tasmin Egerton

Michael Winterbottom

Matt Greenhalgh



101 minutes

June 27, 2013
The Look of Love (2013) on IMDb
Stacks Image 56