This film tells the story of Paul Raymond, also known as the King of Soho, who began his reign producing saucy shows at the Windmill Theatre.
He then took over a club and named it after himself: The Raymond Revuebar, and published a saucy men's magazine called Men Only.
Raymond was famous not only for his production of nude revues, but also for buying up huge swaths of Soho at a time when that part of London was very cheap, making him a millionaire many many times over.
The Look of Love focuses on his relationship with the three most important woman in his life: his wife Jean (Anna Friel), his lover Fiona (the very beautiful Tamsin Egertoon) and his daughter Debbie (Imogen Potts). Raymond is played by Steve Coogan, in a role perfectly suited for him.
The film begins with Raymond, who was actually born Geoffrey Quinn, in his early days at the Windmill, putting his (at the time shocking) nude women on stage in various forms of artistic poses. He gets wrapped up in an affair with one of his 'actresses', Fiona Richmond, while his wife Jean is at home taking care of the children. With his very late nights and the affair, his marriage falls apart.
As time goes on, he will do anything to make his daughter happy, and this includes creating a show around her, even though she is not much of a singer or stage actress. (Unfortunately, Debbie was addicted to drugs, and her life was cut short of a drug overdose in 1992 at the age of 36. Even though Raymond had several other children, Debbie was his favorite, and her daughter, Fawn, became his favourite.)
Meanwhile, Raymond continued with his womanizing ways, bedding several women at once, and enjoying his bachelor penthouse with a retractable skylight to look up at the moon and the stars. Raymond was THE playboy of his time. He wore expensive tailored clothes, gold and silver jewellery, had chauffeurs take him around town (even if it was just down the street), drank expensive Champagne, and always had a very attractive woman or two on his arm.
Raymond was also known to have spent lots of his money on cocaine, not just for himself but for his friends and hangers on as well. At the time of his death in 2008, Raymond was worth $650 million, and gave it all to his granddaughters, Fawn and India Rose, who now manage his property business.
Tasmin Egerton as the much younger girlfriend of Raymond, Fiona Richmond (who changed her name to Julia Harrison and wrote a raunchy column for Men Only), is especially good (and beautiful to look at). She does not get dragged down in the drug culture that persisted then, and is presented as a smart woman who was no man's fool. Imogen Poots is excellent in the role as Raymond's daughter Debbie. It is a very difficult role to play, but Poots pulls it off, allowing the audience to feel sympathy as well as encouragement for her, giving the film its emotional punch.
Credit also goes to the screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh for making this a documentary-like movie, and to the production and costume designers for giving the film its very realistic feel. For those familiar with Soho, The Look of Love was shot in and around the neighborhood, making it feel very familiar.
Director Michael Winterbottom has expertly captured the many eras in Paul Raymond's life - from the 1960s when he was married to Jean, to the 1970s when he was with Fiona, to the 1980s and beyond as his empire grew, through to the death of his daughter, and the extra care and attention paid to his granddaughters. Coogan, as mentioned above, was a perfect choice to play the Soho impressario Paul Raymond, who was a character that is not only very interesting but was very colourful, full of life, and a very shrewd businessman as well.
Raymond was famous for always saying, "Not bad for a boy who came from Liverpool with five bob in his pocket." And with that he helped to change the landscape of what Soho would later become.