Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Anna Friel
Watch The Look of Love online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Amazon Instant / Google Play
Biopics are generally difficult films to write, to act in and to watch (please see A Cock and Bull Story). The life of a single person cannot be summed up in under two hours and if it can, the biopic is probably not worth making. Winterbottom is talented, brave (see 9 Songs, and The Killer Inside Me), a master at directing Steve Coogan (see The Trip) and also at capturing a culture on film (see 24 Hour Party People). Writer Matt Greenhalgh holds the title of writing one of the best biopics to date (see Control). But can you throw talent at a problem and get a solution? Sometimes. Can you throw Steve Coogan at a problem and get a solution? Yes.
Paul Raymond, according to most of The Look of Love, is a covertly seedy, greedy, inconsiderate, power-driven, neglectful pimp. The opening scene is Raymond leaving his wife for a nude model, a decision he appears to make only moments after meeting her. He brazenly cancels his daughter’s first stage production because it is “haemorrhaging cash”. He then proceeds to encourage her cocaine addiction.
But we are not watching Paul Raymond do this. We are watching Steve Coogan. The saviour of this character is that Coogan’s charm and comic timing shine through an otherwise sleazy, contemptible businessman. This is not the fault of Coogan: this is a triumph of casting. Wit, smooth-talking and a taste for fun mean that Coogan’s porn baron becomes a sort of 70s/80s-era Gatsby, with all the money, beautiful girls and fine suits – and a heart of gold that is constantly chasing his daughter’s love.
Capturing the mood perfectly, and with an array of Brit cameos, Coogan is supported by Winterbottom, who creates a bright, sleek period in which the law are trying to ruin Raymond’s good time. Chris Addison’s excellent turn as a quick-talking photographer with a hair/beard combo that may actually warrant his lack of responsibility proves light-hearted in a role that could’ve been significantly darker. Raymond’s ladies – Anna Friel as his wife, Tamsin Edgerton as his girlfriend and Imogen Poots as his beloved daughter – all perfect their roles by being loyal, kind and honest, thus making them nearly as likeable to the viewer as to Raymond himself.
The Look of Love is defined, as is its main character, by an ability to take something technically difficult and seemingly impossible and do it with ease. A well-told, interesting biopic that is as much about a porn baron with a good heart as it is about the time he lived in, The Look of Love may just have what you’re looking for.
The DVD Extras
If you have watched the film, or decide not to for some reason (nudity, drug use – take your pick) and navigate through the notably beautiful DVD menu to the extras, you will find interviews with the cast and crew. These are okay – no nudity or drug use, a couple of swears here and there, but everyone’s very, very English so it’s basically harmless. There are also deleted scenes – maybe skip these, as they contain more nudity and drug use – a timeline of the life of Paul Raymond from 1950 – detailed and comprehensive but not a single offensive token to be seen – and a trailer, which contains suggested nudity and drug use but is mostly alright.
The deleted scenes include a few that concentrate more on Raymond’s gathering empire, check-ins with people to note the value of his property (constantly rising) and his other interests (up and down). One shows Chris Addison (and his hair/beard combo), Coogan and Edgerton reading, and gently mocking, fan mail. They realise they’ve created a homely monster with Edgerton’s filthy column and term her “Blue Peter” -with emphasis on the “Blue”.
The interviews prove to be the money shot, as it were. Compact, interesting and detailed, they explain the production of the film in an engaging and interested manner.
Though there are few extras, all are attractive and well-produced. Created with the viewer in mind, and not just to display arrogance at their hard work, Winterbottom and Coogan continue to be humble, brave and most of all fun.
The Look of Love is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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