Sydney Film Festival – The Look of Love review


By Simon Miraudo
June 7, 2013

Steve Coogan takes on the role of Steve Coog … er, I mean, Paul Raymond in The Look of Love, his fourth collaboration with director Michael Winterbottom. No one would accuse the distinctive British comedian of disappearing into his roles. Yet, just as Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People proved to be the perfect marriage of performer and subject, skeezy Soho real estate magnate – and purveyor of England’s finest erotica – Raymond is a similarly comfortable suit for him to wear. Trouble is, The Look of Love can’t help but feel like well trod territory for its director and star. The resulting product indeed feels like a spiritual sequel. It is also a very, very familiar seeming one.

It begins with a lonesome, elder Raymond reflecting back on his life following the death of his troubled daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots), no doubt pondering where exactly it all went wrong. Was it when he made a name for himself and wife Jean (Anna Friel) by hosting a series of risqué revues in London? No, that was a right laugh. Perhaps it was when he left his open-minded and affair-forgiving wife for his limber new dancer Amber (Tamsin Egerton)? No. No, that was a pretty good time for him too. Was it when his publishing empire expanded wildly, making him the richest man in Britain? When the cocaine flowed freely? When the threesomes came easily? Okay, his internal angst and struggle isn’t quite coming across on paper.


That all sounds very titillating, and it is, but The Look of Love is, nonetheless, a biopic; saddled with all the baggage that comes with that terrible genre. Really, is there anything worse in cinema? Winterbottom and screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh try out some nifty tricks to shake up proceedings, playing with the film’s structure, and shifting the lens through which the story is told (occasionally handing over to fictional news reporters and documentarians within the picture). Winterbottom even flicks from colour to black-and-white, just to mix things up a bit. It’s a distraction more than anything, but the hard work was noted.

Though this might be the least of their four creative collaborations – following the electric, aforementioned 24 Hour Party People, self-spoofing Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, and their hysterical, gastronomic TV series The Trip The Look of Love provides the same unique pleasure exclusive to their pairings: an opportunity for the oft-misused Coogan to shine. The leading ladies are also excellent, particularly Poots as the damaged Debbie. They are, however, basking in the afterglow of Raymond’s avatar.


Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews here.

The Look of Love plays the Sydney Film Festival June 7, 13, and 15.

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