For all of its flash and trash, lurid doings and time capsule kickiness, "The Look of Love," director Michael Winterbottom's biopic of London theater impresario, men's magazine mogul and general titillation-monger Paul Raymond (played by Steve Coogan, the filmmaker's frequent collaborator), remains a curiously uninvolving affair.
Maybe if screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh had focused on a briefer period in Raymond's hyper-lucrative career instead of flipping through nearly three dozen years of highlights — and some low points — the story would have felt more pointed and urgent. Instead, this well-mounted if sluggish tale of Raymond's empire building, essentially starting with the 1958 opening of his pioneering Soho nude revue bar and ending with the drug overdose death of his beloved daughter in 1992 (the same year property magnate Raymond was crowned Britain's richest man), skims a host of provocative surfaces without truly dissecting the self-absorbed playboy. (Coogan's trademark droll detachment, though amusing, further distances us from the inner Raymond.)
The emotional component, mostly entailing Raymond's relationships with the three key women in his life — wife Jean (Anna Friel), lover-muse Fiona (Tamsin Egerton) and troubled daddy's girl Debbie (Imogen Poots) — gives "Look" a bit of heft but is still overshadowed by the picture's spicier elements.
Kudos, however, to production designer Jacqueline Abrahams, costume designer Stephanie Collie and hair designer Laura Schiavo for their expert attention to period detail.
"The Look of Love"
Rating: No MPAA rating
Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Playing at: Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun