Friday, 12 April 2013

The Look Of Love (18)

And so, after weeks of adverts, tweets, Facebook postings and the local paper chucking in an ill-conceived four-page supplement almost as an after-thought, the Bradford International Film Festival is finally here! And it's starting with drinkies. Happy days.

Of course, it's also starting with a film - and what better than a biopic of a self-made millionaire brought to you by the the team that enjoyed great success with 24-Hour Party People? Of course, they also brought us A Cock And Bull Story...

This is about a man, his millions, and the art of making money out of nudity.

As The Boss was otherwise disposed this evening, I got to go to the opening night of the Bradford International Film Festival. As the office work experience (I prefer the word intern), I've been waiting for the words "Erica, here's your Press Pass", so you can imagine my excitement.

I'd be interested to know what The Boss, being of the male persuasion, would have made of this.  All I can say is if I'd turned this film into a drinking game whereby I had a shot for every nipple appearance, I'd be slumped on the floor jibbering, rather than writing this.

Sadly not, so I'll continue.

The film starts in a seemingly sweet way, with Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) driving his grand-daughter around in his Rolls Royce, while telling her that his empire will one day be hers.

We then see him surrounded by the Press asking him about his daughter, who has evidently died.

From that point on we see Raymond's life in flashback, starting when he opens a strip club in 1958, through to, I assume, the eighties - although I only worked that out from the soundtrack, which was playing Soft Cell's Tainted Love by then.

Initially the film centres on Raymond making pots of money owning strip clubs, making forays into the world of theatre (he owned the Windmill Theatre in London) and publishing the first "men's magazine", Men Only. All this while indulging in dalliances with various showgirls, to the seeming amusement of wife, Jean (Anna Friel).

It then moves on to focus on the relationship (or lack of) with his adored daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots). I got hopeful at this point that the story would develop into something with a bit more emotion and depth.

As screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh told us in his pre-film speech, he had a lot of fun researching the life of Paul Raymond.  Armed with all that research, why then did we see so little character development and such a flimsy story?

None of the characters were likeable, not even daughter Debbie who was, arguably, a victim, having been sent to gain a middle class education at a posh school, only then to be thrust into the seedy world of strip clubs, drugs and a parent who wholeheartedly approves of her lifestyle. Her descent into drug addiction and the party-life could have been so much grittier than it was.

The men in the film are odious creatures who view women as objects to leer at and talk dirty about. The women are vacuous in the extreme. And it kind of feels like the film was made for like-minded people.

There are a lot of naked women to be ogled in this film.  A lot.  To the extent that it's almost a series of naked sketches, where the story is an afterthought.

The sixties was a sexual revolution, I get that.  But the threesomes and orgies were there at the expense of the storyline.  When the film reaches the seventies, surely a feminist or two would've emerged to give Raymond and his cohorts a hard time?

We get a few news clips thrown in, such as his £250k divorce being the largest of the time, or an interviewer asking whether his clubs are degrading to women, but these more interesting and relevant bits are never expanded upon. And this would've given us some much-needed contrast.

It's like they couldn't decide what kind of film they wanted to make. It's not a straight-out biography (it doesn't round the story out enough for that), and it's not a comedy (it simply makes you chuckle a few times). At times the story is simply confusing - was Debbie still married to Jonathan (Simon Bird) when she died?  If so, who is the bloke holding the kids at the funeral 'cos that wasn't the same actor.

It's a shame because the great cast raises your expectations, but the performances either seem lazy or just an excuse for well-known comedians to do some averagely-amusing caricatures.

And don't get me started on the soundtrack.  Did they run out of money for song royalties?  They seemed to play the same few songs ad nauseum. Unacceptable.

Having said all that I didn't hate it. It's just that, ironically for a film about sex,  the whole thing left me feeling unsatisfied.


  1. Great review!
    I couldn't agree more - thought that although there was some great performances, there was very little going on in the way of things I should care about. "Rich man embraces hedonism" through to "richer man continues hedonism" with little in between!

  2. ''...was Debbie still married to Jonathan (Simon Bird) when she died? If so, who is the bloke holding the kids at the funeral 'cos that wasn't the same actor.''

    This has really been annoying me. Coogan/Raymond even calls him 'John' (he says something like ''I'll take Fawn, John.''.) and he's holding another child, who's referred to as Fawn's sister, so either Debbie took up with and had another child by another man called John, and it's never referred to, or they used a different actor to play the same part, which is frankly ridiculous in a 90 minute film.