The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Look of Love | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Look of Love

Biopic of British porn magnate Paul Raymond.

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Anna Friel, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Tamsin Egerton, Shirley Henderson, David Walliams, Chris Addison

When we first meet Paul Raymond (Coogan) in the late fifties, he and his wife Jean (Friel) are touring England with a gimmicky nude circus act. After a tabloid newspaper incorrectly states that Jean appears nude in these shows, Raymond wins a substantial libel settlement. He uses the winnings to open the Raymond Revue Bar, which quickly becomes the lead attraction of Soho, London's red light district. The film follows Raymond through the seventies and eighties as he builds an empire of sex clubs and porn magazines, focusing on his tumultuous relationship with both his model girlfriend Fiona Richmond (Egerton) and his drug-addled daughter Debbie (Poots) as she struggles with the question of how to overcome addiction.
The biopic film is a difficult genre, one which rarely produces satisfying results. The best biopics choose to focus on a particular moment or aspect of their subject's life. Tim Burton's 'Ed Wood' is a perfect example of a film which focuses on celebrating its subject's best years. Had Burton taken the usual biopic route, as Winterbottom does here, the second half of his film would have been a depressing tale of Wood's downward spiral into drug addiction. There's a strange level of begrudgery involved in most biopics, aimed, as they so often are, to appeal at the primitive jealousy we feel towards the rich and famous. These films take great delight in building up a successful figure, only to knock them down in the final act. Why choose to focus on a famous person's human flaws rather than the achievements which brought them such fame?
Winterbottom's film adopts this crude tactic, all champagne popping montages in the first half, drug-addled paranoia and self-destruction in the second. We've seen this a million times before, with far more interesting subjects. Raymond's character is pretty unremarkable and Coogan does him no favors with his portrayal, indistinguishable from any other character the former comedian has played. The real star of the show is Poots, stealing every scene she appears in. By the end of 2013, this girl's name will be on everyone's lips. Friel is also impressive, perfectly capturing the new-money crassness of her character.
Winterbottom has become the U.K's Stephen Soderbergh, churning out films at an incredible rate. He began his career with a series of interesting works but, like his U.S counterpart, he seems to be coasting on auto-pilot now. Maybe a Soderbergh-esque break is in order?