Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published June 25th 2013
More 24 hour party people
Director: Michael Winterbottom: (The Trip, Wonderland, 24 Hour Party People) Cast: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton
Despite the diversity of Michael Winterbottom's films, they all have one thing in common - none have been hits. From brilliant hard-hitting dramas like Road to Guantanamo to comedies like Tristram Shandy, he's never made much of an impression at the box office. The closest he's come to it was with the hugely enjoyable 24 Hour Party People and equally fun The Trip. Encouragingly, of all the titles in his hefty canon of work, The Look Of Love most resembles these two.
Tamsin Egerton as Amber/Fiona Richmond and Steve Coogan as Geoffrey Quinn/Paul Raymond
Like both those films, The Look of Love stars Steve Coogan, and as with 24 Hour Party People, he's playing a real-life figure who made it big in a particular niche of the entertainment industry in England. Coogan plays Paul Raymond, who came to fame (or infamy) in the 1960s by producing racy West End shows that were really just an excuse to put naked women on stage.
It would've been easy for this to have been merely a superficial sweep over the three decades that Raymond exploited women via stage productions and magazines, but Winterbottom actually manages to get under the surface of this tawdry world. He does this by focusing a lot of the attention on the women in Raymond's life, including his daughter, his estranged wife and one long time girlfriend and collaborator. Their perspectives are given considerable screen time and the three actresses playing the roles are all aces.
Coogan is never a very likeable presence on screen, so he's actually a good fit for the sleazy, self-important entrepreneur. It's the kind of thing he can do in his sleep, effortlessly injecting humour into an often charmless figure. Anyone who has seen The Trip will know how good he is at impersonations, and he manages to slip in a few old favourites during various scenes.
Humour actually plays a big part in the production, and there are plenty of blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos from the likes of Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas and David Walliams.
The attention to period detail is also very impressive, with the fashions of the 60s, 70s and 80s coming through loud and clear through the costumes, set designs and the choice of hit songs from each era.
This is an affectionate look back at a colourful time in England's history and remains remarkably ingratiating given the questionable character of its subject.