Sundance Review: The Look of Love


I can forgive The Look of Love for operating within cliches and stereotypes of the ’70s, because porn mogul Paul Raymond is one of the few that set the tone of the decade. Raymond is a man of excess, pushing the moral standards of society while building an empire in London’s Soho district.

As the decades roll on, the public becomes tired of Raymond’s adult clubs and magazine. Likewise, Raymond grows tired of his love affairs and opulent lifestyle, constantly in search of new loves and real estate. His life may be cliche and the story may be true, but it’s also entertaining.

The Look of Love
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Rating: NR
Country: UK
Release Date: March 8, 2013 (UK)

By 1992, Paul Raymond became the richest man in London. On the back of adult clubs, a popular porn magazine (Men`s Only), and numerous shops throughout Soho, he built a dynasty for his kids to inherit — the very same who he shuns and dismisses throughout life, as he chases the next lavish nude musical and model to bring back to his place (and when he does, without fail, he points out it was once Ringo Starr`s bachelor pad.)

Director Michael Winterbottom and star Steve Coogan (who pitched the story to Winterbottom) summon the same verve that made 2002`s 24 Hour Party People such a lively biopic. Look of Love doesn’t quite stack up, which is mostly due to a more conventional script and approach that leads to a lackluster third act as Raymond wakes up to the cocaine bummer he built around his family life. The film is at its best when Raymond is at his best.

Coogan is charming and funny as he`s ever been, making memorable quotes when he isn’t saying others’ memorable quotes. Raymond wasn’t a lucky man. Like all great entrepreneurs, he made his luck through persistence (“I’ve never begged for anything,” he says to his first wife as she threatens to divorce) and craft (he embraces negative reviews, turning their disgust at his play into a positive ad.)

Winterbottom’s breezy pace and eccentric touches, such as having Steven Fry supply narrative voiceover in the style of a `60s news program, give a lot of energy to the film that Coogan picks up and carries to the finish line. The `60s and `70s are great fun with this company, but when all of Raymond’s ills and mistakes finally catch up to him, I too felt eerily numb on the inside, instead of the emotional catharsis the film wished upon me.