Nowadays the richest men on earth mostly make their money in IT. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs (before his passing), Mark Zuckerberg and those guys behind Google. Before the internet the list of richest people was much more varied and so the richest man of England in the 90s did not become wealthy through some website, but with Porn. Paul Raymond, played by Steve Coogan, started out as an entertainer but went on to open the first strip club. His keen eye for generating publicity and manipulating the media through media stunts made a lot of his clubs, shows and magazines profitable eventually making him the richest man in the U.K. But as most stories about successful business men turn out: his private life was less successful.
Somehow the sex business adds extra pressure to those involved, even if it’s the people pulling the strings like Paul Raymond or Larry Flynt. Paul’s shenanigans with girls from his clubs eventually put a strain on his marriage, especially when he starts seeing one of them, Fiona Richmond, on a more serious level. He has a son from a relationship prior to his marriage and a daughter, Debbie, who eventually overdoses on heroin.
Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love is more serious than the trailer points out to be. Initially portrayed as a cunning but otherwise carefree businessman, Coogan’s portrayal of Raymond is a rather tragic one. A man who could succeed with almost anything when it’s business, but has trouble coping with relationships with the people around him. His ex-wife, his girlfriend, his estranged son and even his daughter, whom he sees as his successor until she dies of a drug problem he was long aware of. This is one of the most peculiar relationships in the movie as he seemingly turns more into a friend than her father when she’s reaches adulthood. At one point he’s doing drugs with her at one of his parties and when she’s giving birth and can’t take the pain he ends up giving her a line of coke.
The Look of Love jumps back and forth in time and has some characters change their appearance throughout like Paul’s (ex-wife) who starts out a brunette in the beginning, but later on is a blonde until at the end she’s a brunette again. This is kind of confusing and makes it sometimes hard to track who’s who. The initial present day opening and then having the main character tell his story is a classic way of story telling, but the movie could’ve done without the constant jumps.
This movie is a nice portrait of a man who had it all in terms of money but despite all the fun he had with all the girls had a pretty tragic private life. Paul Raymond at one point mentions he knows John Lennon personally and like the Beatles sang: money can’t buy me love.