Michael Winterbottom is a very hit and miss director; I enjoyed 24 Hour Party People, A Cock and Bull Story and The Trip but his other works can be complete misfires. The Look of Love is another misfire to be added to Winterbottom’s filmography. It follows Paul Raymond, an entrepreneur and business baron of Soho who owned numerous clubs and soft-core pornographic magazines during his hey-day; Raymond is played by Winterbottom regular, Steve Coogan.
Unlike 24 Hour Party People, The Look of Love really fails to capitalise on the inner complexities of its main subject. Tony Wilson (also played by Coogan) in 24 Hour Party People is well observed by Winterbottom but here in The Look of Love it’s all very cut and dry – partly down to Steve Coogan, who can’t quite pull off the serious parts of the film; also it doesn’t help that he has to work with a script which seems to skip over a lot of time and refuses to get into the nitty-gritty. This especially being the case with the central character’s suddenly ill daughter later on in the film. Furthermore the always wonderful Anna Friel is pushed to polar ends of the movie with not much to work with, whilst Imogen Poots plays Raymond’s daughter Debbie who takes up the second half of this movie as Winterbottom opts to focus on the pair’s relationship.
The seedy blue area of Soho isn’t nearly focused on enough by Winterbottom; we really don’t get a sense of this empire that Paul Raymond built up, nor really get to know the characters that dwelled within it. Again this wasn’t the case with Winterbottom’s earlier film 24 Hour Party People, where we got to experience a slice of what the Manchester music scene was like during Tony Wilson’s heyday by actually engaging with the larger than life characters. For a film which focuses on the allures of the sex industry, it doesn’t try to show how sleazy the work was conducted by Paul Raymond; surprising considering Winterbottom previously made an art film entitled 9 Songswhere we get to see a man ejaculate on screen.
Ultimately, The Look of Love doesn’t really get into the inner-workings of once Britain’s richest man, instead we get something completely rounded and bone bare where by the end you really don’t feel like you’ve got to at least understand or feel sympathy for a pretty unlikable character.
2 Stars ★★✰✰✰