It sounds like a dream project. Steve Coogan and Michael Winterbottom, who did first-class biopic work on 24-Hour Party People , reunite for a study of Soho porn "baron" Paul Raymond (why does that particular honorific still stick?).
Born Geoffrey Quinn to a Liverpool-Irish family, this strange, unknowable, somewhat camp figure came to define much that was ghastly in 1970s Britain: an irresponsible embrace of promiscuity; a disregard for the sexual independence of women; the trumpeting of robber-baron capitalism.
The Look of Love begins with the death of Raymond's daughter in 1992. A few months later, thanks to his canny acquisition of Soho properties, he was declared the wealthiest man in Britain. Such a story was bound to offer diversions. Structured in the manner of Citizen Kan e – the lonely (though not yet dead) mogul looks back over his rise – the film often has the feel of an extended commercial for some ghastly 1970s aftershave.
Chris Addison, playing the editor of Men Only , oils his way across the set in a permed beard plucked from the depths of sartorial hell. Shot using imitations of contemporaneous stock, the picture collects many more tasty performances as it creeps along: The Inbetweeners ' Simon Bird as a jingle writer, David Walliams as a naughty vicar, Matt Lucas as Divine. One is never bored. But one is never entirely satisfied either.
Sadly, much about The Look of Love seems half-baked. The pornography is neither guiltily exotic nor properly seedy; it just passes by like unnoticed traffic (perhaps that's the point). The film never touches on tasty details such as the Metropolitan Police's notorious collusion with the porn industry.
Most seriously, Coogan fails to make Raymond into a character. Stranded halfway between Alan Partridge and
's Tony Wilson, this version of the baron isn't even allowed to become anything so interesting as an enigma. It's Steve Coogan – only
A missed opportunity.