Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema Women of Substance

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema Women of Substance

Article excerpt

The Look of Love 18, Nationwide The Look of Love is the biopic of Paul Raymond and although it wants to be a tragedy - I could feel it straining at the leash to go in that direction - it never quite pulls it off, so to speak. Visually, it's fantastic, with more retro kitsch than you can shake a stick at, should you wish to shake a stick at retro kitsch, and there are exceptional performances from Anna Friel and Imogen Poots, but it somehow lacks emotional heart, or any kind of poignancy. It's entertaining, but glib and unaffecting, and so astonishingly uncritical it makes posing for porn mags or getting your kit off in some seedy Soho dive seem like the most fulfilling and joyful thing a woman can ever do, which I would dispute.

A whole morning in John Lewis, that's when a woman is happiest. Ask anyone. (In the Oxford Street branch, they have a massage bed on display, which you can lie on, AND NO ONE SAYS A THING! ) But enough of all that. The Look of Love is a collaboration between the director Michael Winterbottom and the actor/writer Steve Coogan, who, together, also made 24 Hour Party People, Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story and, most recently, for television, The Trip, which starred Coogan and Rob Brydon travelling around Britain as themselves, and was totally brilliant.

I laughed my socks off, and laughed them off so hard they were never seen again.

This, however, is not a comedy but Winterbottom's and Coogan's instinct for comedy does keep tripping them up. Everyone's decent and lovable, including Raymond, and the supporting cast appears to have been drawn from the panel of Mock the Week or QI or similar. Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry and Al Murray all have walk-on parts, while there are beefier roles for David Walliams, Simon Bird and Chris Addison. Coogan, as Raymond, is restrained, and not too Alan Partridge, and his mullet wig has to be the mullet wig of the year (I think you'll find The Mullet Wig Society will agree, come awards time) but there are moments in the script that allow him to do impressions of Marlon Brando and Sean Connery. Coogan can do such impressions. Could Raymond?

(she asks, pompously).

Who was Raymond? On paper, he was the Soho impresario who first founded 'Raymond's Revue Bar' and then built up an empire including property and top-of-theshelf mags like Men Only, Mayfair, Razzle and all the other titles you used to find discarded in bushes in the park. …

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