Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Anna Friel
Watch The Look of Love online in the UK: All 4 / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / 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 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 smut 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, Michael Winterbottom creates a bright, sleek period in which the law is 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.
The Look of Love is available on All 4 until 22nd April 2021.
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