First and foremost Night survey: The Look of Love gives us porn lord Paul Raymond as Citizen Kane – so where's the earth?
Michael Winterbottom's biopic of the porn and property tycoon Paul Raymond might want to have us accept that Raymond (who was one of Britain's wealthiest men) was Soho's answer to Citizen Kane. The picture, scripted by Matt Greenhalgh, even has an involved flashback-based screenplay comparable to the one in Kane. Its issue is that Raymond is too unpleasant, funny and shallow an character to undertake any sort of sad magnificence.
Regardless of a quite exuberant exhibition from Steve Coogan as the porn lord of Soho, this is a picture needing passionate profundity. You like its entertainment of 1970s Soho, which is vivid without slipping by into kitsch. Winterbottom carries the same anarchic vigor to The Look Of Love which made 24 Hour Party People, his picture about Manchester pop svengali Tony Wilson, so strengthening. There are more than enough colourful cameos from recognizable faces (Stephen Fry as a judge, David Walliams as a venal minister, and so on). The picture is shot in brilliant, essential colours. The universe of Soho cut joints and private parts' clubs is delineated in chipper, carnivalesque mold. (Any messiness or misuse is sparkled over.)
Vicar's little girl turned blaze haired porn star Fiona Richmond, played with extraordinary energy by Tamsin Egerton, epitomises the exact British approach to grown-up amusement. Everybody here needs to live it up and profit the whole time. Shockingly, the producers skim over Raymond's adolescence and underpinning. We catch in passing how he updated his name (he was conceived Geoffrey Quinn) and he is dependably sharp to remind us that he touched base in London as "an chap from Liverpool with five bounce in his pocket".
At a young hour in the picture, we see Raymond at the begin of his porn lifework, when he put on shows with lion tamers and stripped young ladies, posturing like statues. Under the Lord Chamberlain's regulations, the nudes were not permitted to move.
We see his marriage to Jean (Anna Friel) break down as he shacks up with Richmond. It is everything sprightly, knockabout stuff yet what we are not given is any feeling of what drives Raymond (past his fondness of sex and property).
Coogan, an exceptionally skilled humorist and impersonator, is playing an character who is putting on a gesture. It's small shock, then, that now and again, his Paul Raymond may as well appear as though one of his comic drama characters. His haircut in the 1970s scenes makes him look peculiarly like the Formula One racer Jackie Stewart. At the time he is skipping with Richmond and various different friends in his Ringo Starr-planned level or turning a line to the press, he's tricky to consider important.
The nexus relationship is that between Raymond and his little girl, Debbie (Imogen Poots). She is a volatile figure with a self-damaging streak however he hovers over her and needs her to take over his realm. Poots passes on quite movingly her character's inconsistencies: her heedless indulgence and yet her helplessness. Similarly as Citizen Kane attempted to transform his courtesan into an extremely popular musical show artist, Raymond supports her endeavors at getting an star, putting her in one of his more silly shows. She doesn't have to take her attire off yet she is obliged to sing – and she essentially can't cut it.
Debbie is far and away the most complex character in The Look Of Love, the one exclusive who truly has an inner part life. In his scenes with her, the picture undertakes some gushing desperation. Somewhere else, however, it plays like an charming however one-dimensional comic drama.