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The Look of Love (2013)

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For the most part, “The Look of Love” is the beneficiary of some fine performances and unwavering chemistry between director Michael Winterbottom and his actors. In majority, the positives outweigh the story’s skeletal simplicity and the second half is a brilliant ending to a beginning that felt almost non-existent. This biopic provides a veritable gaze into the restricted, promiscuous, pornographic world created and lived by Paul Raymond. And although this lifestyle sounds like all fun and games, it proves to be quite the contrast. Shining a harsh, unflinching light upon drug and sex addiction, family struggles, and existence. “The Look of Love” may offer up some shady hilarity and the occasional quip, but nevertheless remains quite potent and disheartening. “The Look of Love’s” beautiful, nostalgic soundtrack, strong performances, and hypnotic camera work are enough to save it from mediocrity and make it recommended viewing.

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Paul Raymond (Coogan) is an adult magazine publisher and entrepreneur. Upon opening a few burlesque houses and touring with a mature show, his fortune beings to explode. Now, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, Raymond begins to fall victim to temptation. With sex and drugs available to him so easily, Raymond eventually parts ways with morality. This causes him to lose his wife Jean (Anna Friel) and puts a serious strain on his relationship with his daughter Debbie (Poots). Raymond is left trying to recoup and reinvent his life, starting with his family.

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This is the fourth time director Michael Winterbottom has collaborated with actor Steve Coogan, who tackles the lead role portraying Paul Raymond. And even though “The Look of Love” is the duo’s weakest effort in a long line of overwhelming successes, the film is a step outside the pair’s comfort zone. So cinephiles, take note that instead of treading warm waters, the formidable twosome opted for a bold, dramatic, and more importantly new direction. I know it is no excuse for the flicks relatively linear and cliched story. Nonetheless, I’d rather applaud them for taking a leap, you know, find solace in the risk. I mean it should assist in the viewer reluctantly coming to terms with “The Look of Love’s” blandness. However, don’t take this dissection the wrong way, it is an entertaining, visceral, and occasionally funny film.

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Winterbottom’s direction is as intoxicating as ever. Consistently throughout “The Look of Love” the viewer is bombarded with a colourfully detailed pallet. Wave upon wave of neon, bright pigmentation, and dreary shades drown each minute making the film a visual feast. Not to mention the paced nudity, physical interactions, and explosiveness of the characters emotional diversity. Winterbottom leaves no stone unturned and captures the film’s limited brilliance with his usual style and exuberance.

There’s no denying that “The Look of Love” draws a substantial amount of its charm and effectiveness from its two main characters ability to bond. Portrayed by the aforementioned Steve Coogan and the lovely Imogen Poots, it’s safe to say the film didn’t suffer from a lack of talent and investment. The two might not have been able to secure the films flimsy structure, but did manage to salvage some treasure amongst the rubble. Imogen Poots rendition of “The Look of Love” is outstanding and continues to affirm her status as a star on the rise. Coogan once again proves that he’s got the chops to hang with the best in the biz and is undoubtedly one of the most underrated actors. He certainly hasn’t lost his flare for wit, humour, and strong emotional output. Sadly, it feels as if the film didn’t take full advantage of Poots and Coogan’s many talents, most importantly, hilarity.

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Although it could’ve been a lot better, “The Look of Love” has a striking cast, firm direction, and enough pull to appease fans of Coogan, Poots, and Winterbottom.

The Look of Love: 7.5 out of 10.

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