Raymond was like the British Hefner, except he was significantly richer. It turns out real estate and dirty magazines
were a highly profitable combination.
Who knew? Yet, despite the money
and the parties, Raymond’s story is rather sad, at least according to Michael
Winterbottom’s big screen treatment, The
Look of Love,
screens during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
a burlesque impresario, Raymond’s first foray into publishing was a
failure. The timing was better for Men Only in the early 1970’s. Much like Hefner, Raymond planned to turn
control of his companies over to his daughter Debbie. Unfortunately, as the audience quickly
understands from the flashback structure, this will not come to pass.
Greenhalgh’s screenplay unambiguously argues doing coke with your daughter does
not constitute good parenting. Actually,
Look’s inclination to pass moral
judgment is rather refreshing. Yet, it clearly
wants to have its cheesecake and eat it too.
There are plenty of scenes of Raymond’s naughty stage shows and photo-shoots. However, the real estate side of his empire
gets decidedly short shrift. It might
not be as cinematic, but it is important.
At the height of his family tragedy, Raymond was declared the wealthiest
man in the UK, but Look never really
explores his considerable business acumen.
with Winterbottom again (following the thoroughly entertaining Trip), Steve Coogan is quite masterful
in the dramedic lead, vividly portraying Raymond’s recklessness and remorse. Unlike obvious comparison films (such as Boogie Nights), Look boasts several strong women characters, including Raymond’s
first wife Jean and his longtime lover, Fiona Richmond, both of whom were once
involved in the risqué side of his business.
One might even go so far as to say Tamsin Egerton projects empowered
confidence as Richmond, the sex symbol who eventually has enough. As Ms. Raymond #1, Anna Friel’s mature,
self-possessed sexuality also works quite well on-screen. Conversely, Imogen Poots’ lost little rich
party girl persona becomes rather exhausting.
It is hard not to enjoy Raymond’s breezy first act
success story, but since we know more or less how it ends, the third act plays
out like a grim end-game. As a period
production, Look gets the groovy details
right and if you dig David and Bacharach, you will have plenty to hum along
with here. Look is a fascinating morality tale, but it just could have used a
bit more pep down the stretch.
Recommended reservedly for Coogan fans and those obsessed with the early
adult smut industry, The Look of Love screens
again Wednesday (1/23) in Salt Lake, Thursday (1/24) in Sundance Resort, and
Saturday (1/26) in Park City, as part of this year’s Sundance.
Labels: British Cinema, Michael Winterbottom, Paul Raymond, Steve Coogan, Sundance '13