AH-HA! It’s been almost 20 years since Steve Coogan first appeared on our TV screens as Alan Partridge, the tragi-comic sports correspondent on spoof news show, The Day Today.
The same year Partridge received his own series, Knowing Me Knowing You, a fresh take on tacky chat shows which cemented the character as one of Britain’s finest comedy creations and the actor as one of the decade’s brightest stars.
Coogan returns this week in The Look of Love, a new big screen biopic which charts his his rise and fall of Soho ‘adult entertainment’ entrepreneur, Paul Raymond.
Raymond opened the UK’s first strip club, published numerous top shelf publications and invested millions in property around London. He was also a ladies man who led a life packed with incident, making him perfect fodder for Michael Winterbottom’s new film.
Coogan makes for an enigmatic lead, taking Raymond from his early career through to his demise. He’s helped by the excellent Anna Friel as his wife, Jean, and Tamsin Egerton as his mistress, Fiona.
There are also appearances from the likes of David Walliams and The Thick of It’s Chris Addison, with an impressive performance from Imogen Poots as Raymond’s daughter, Debbie.
Thankfully Coogan hasn’t left Alan Partridge too far behind. Look out for the cinematic debut of Norfolk’s most famous son in Alpha Papa this August.
The story apparently sees the takeover of North Norfolk Digital, Alan’s employer, by a global media giant and takes place in and around Norwich.
As good as Coogan is in The Look of Love, I can’t wait for the return of Partridge. Hopefully the character won’t be ruined by the feature film format and it’ll be the start of a new adventure every few years. Alan deserves it.
The Look of Love
* * *
Headline-grabbing publisher and club owner Paul Raymond had a simple business philosophy: give the public, or more specifically men, what they want.
Pandering to carnal desires never did any harm to Raymond’s bank balance: in 1992, he was anointed Britain’s richest man with an estimated personal fortune of £1.5 billion.
That same year, his beloved daughter Debbie died of a heroin overdose aged 36, and her showman father became a recluse.
Michael Winterbottom’s affectionate biopic of the mogul reunites the Blackburn-born director with actor Steve Coogan after their critically acclaimed collaborations 24 Hour Party People, A Cock And Bull Story and The Trip.
The Look Of Love beautifully evokes the changing fashions and moods of each decade, from the titillation and rigorous censorship of the 1950s and 1960s to the lurid, drug-saturated debauchery of the 1970s and discofied 1980s.
The soundtrack strums and shimmies in perfect unison, running the gamut of Burt Bacharach, Donovan, Hot Chocolate, Soft Cell and T-Rex.
Winterbottom’s film employs the shaky framing device of Raymond (Coogan) looking back over his life in the immediate aftermath of his daughter’s death.
The Look Of Love oozes visual excess and Poots and Friel light up the colour-saturated screen. However, Coogan seems to be channelling Alan Partridge in his portrayal, which lessens the emotional wallop of closing scenes with Debbie.
Matt Greenhalgh’s script is peppered with zinging one-liners, such as when a newly bouffant Jean fishes for compliments from her husband and asks: “Do you like my hair?” Paul responds dryly: “It has a Myra Hindley effect.”
Quips aside, there’s a disappointing lack of depth to the characters. Like some of the shows Raymond produced, the film caters magnificently to the eye but short-changes the brain, and the ringmaster of this circus remains - infuriatingly - an emotionally cold enigma throughout.