Despite all evidence to the contrary, Gorilla Film Magazine is aware of films, television and games that are actually popular. We don’t put a lot of effort into covering that stuff, but we’re definitely aware of it. So here’s the Mainstream review of the week.
The Look of Love
Release Date: 26/04/13 (theatrical)
Michael Winterbottom understands how to get the best from Steve Coogan. This, his fourth feature film working with Coogan, has him utilising both the well cultured comedic timing of Coogan and his remarkable ability to evoke sympathy from characters that would otherwise be seen as deplorable.
Coogan this time brings his chameleonship to the role of Paul Raymond, a pioneer in the British adult magazine industry. A hedonist by nature, Raymond seemingly has everything you would expect from leading such a lifestyle; the admiration of young women, expensive cars, an excessive wealth which has bought him half the properties in Soho and all the drugs that a party hard club owner in the 70′s could desire.
Winterbottom seems obsessed with the 70′s, having previously made 24 Hour Party People (also starring Coogan) a film set in the tail end of the 1970′s charting the rising profile of the Manchester music scene. If he was successful in recreating the world of the 1970′s in that film, he has honed in on capturing the era perfectly in his newest effort. The soundtrack is really something which helps this film along, with numerous instantly recognisable songs of the decade coming in at just the appropriate times to reinforce a feeling that is more intense and immersing than nostalgic. It’s only when Winterbottom decides to mix real life footage with cinematic scenes that we are reminded, rather bluntly, that this is a recreating of a time long gone and we are, momentarily, brought back into the present, gazing at the period with novel sentimentality.
The film, although very grounded in the idea of transgression and decadence in the British lifestyle of the time, is also deeply concerned with human connections and relationships, in particular the relationship between Raymond and his daughter, Debbie. (Imogen Poots). Debbie grows up adoring her father and he adoring her. She is the only person he truly cares for as he wanders through life taking all he can, without ever giving much back. As a child she is thoroughly impressed by all the things her father owns, and in return for this adoration Raymond gives her everything that she desires, including putting her out to an illustrious boarding school. As she matures, we see that she is beginning to reflect the more reckless and negative traits of her father and eventually decides to work for him on one of his more risqué shows. The off-kilter, fragile nature of Debbie is well acted by the young Poots, displaying the misplaced hunger and ambition in the eyes of the character quite expertly at times.
An impressive attribute to the film, and something which Winterbottom excelled at in his last film Everyday, is the subtle ageing of each character. The progression of Raymond from a young man with everything at his feet, to a tiring, ageing and broken man is quite remarkable as it sneaks up on you. This also charts a parallelism to Raymond’s ex wife (Anna Friel) who evolves from a confident and powerful young woman to a tired grotesque caricature of a glamour queen
Even though the strongest part of the film is the tragic downfall of the spoiled and adored daughter, it could be an element to why the film also struggles with balancing tone throughout. Coogan is first and foremost a loveable funny man, and he certainly brings that to his character, allowing much comic relief throughout. This comedy, however, runs into some problems as the film progresses and the tragic spiralling is heightened. The comedy and tragedy go against each other, fighting for a piece of our emotions and in the end neither really win out as we are numbed by the counteracting of both.
Some of the scenes are expertly shot by Winterbottom, often feeling quite grand at times. The refrain of Poots singing The Look of Love is something which stays with you quite some time after the credits role. Her aforementioned fragility is complimented with a childlike enthusiasm and clumsiness that is a perfect juxtaposition to a song which has so many connotations to grace and elegance. She is certainly the highlight to an otherwise emotionally anaesthetised affair.
The Look of Love is a character study that lacks genuine insight; instead we are shown a conflicted man trapped in a film which has numerous conflictual issues itself. It’s however redeemed by the fantastic capturing of the era and a stand out performance by the ever improving Imogen Poots.
This was written by Alan Laidlaw.