Rating: 2 / 5
No amount of exposed breasts or waifish women writhing around in pools was ever going to save this movie.
Flamboyant and filthy rich, Paul Raymond (played by Steve Coogan) was the poster boy of the Swinging Sixties in London (or Sexties, should we say). His firm grip on the club scene meant that he stayed in the loop for the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s too.
While anyone outside the UK would be largely unfamiliar with the name, Raymond was better known as the great seducer, who lured men and women into his salacious world of strip clubs, revue shows and lads’ mags such as ‘Men Only’ and 'Mayfair’ — in other words, England’s answer to ‘Playboy’. He made a fortune off his various businesses, and at one point, was the richest man in Britain.
But this rather compelling story of a life filled with hedonism and excess is dulled by director Michael Winterbottom’s straight and narrow biopic — which is really hard to do. After a while, the incessant cocaine-snorting and sexual escapades get old.
Steve Coogan and Imogen Poots play Paul Raymond and Fiona Richmond, both icons of the 70s in London.
The biopic is largely set in ’70s London, where everybody in town believed that cocaine was the chemical equivalent of a feather cut. While the debauchery and depravity of the era is captured to a tee, with Raymond bedding women who danced at his clubs, two (or three) at a time, the film lacks any real heart.
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The story revolves around Paul and the women in his life, though it desperately attempts to anchor the frivolity in something more grounded — his family. When you peel away all the drugs and sex, at the centre of the film is the tragic arc of his relationship with his daughter, Debbie Raymond, told through the collapse of his family, the boom of his empire and her decline in health.
Imogen Poots ('28 Weeks Later') as Debbie, is a wide-eyed ingenue and a Shakespearean ‘Cordelia’ figure. Raymond nurtured her in the hope of passing her his fortune, but it never quite worked out. Poots gives her role a bit of edge through all the debauchery she participates in alongside her father.
Tamsin Egerton ('St Trinian's'), as super vixen and sex symbol Fiona Richmond, cavorts and preens around Raymond to perfection. Anna Friel (TV series 'Pushing Daisies'), as his long-suffering wife Jean, plays her role with panache. She's all tanned and fabulous, returning as his divorcee many years later, and posing in one of Raymond's magazine as a kind of revenge.
Surprisingly, it’s funnyman Coogan who is the disappointment. For a film with someone as usually hilarious as him, there is no comedy at all. He ends up doing stale Sean Connery impersonations. It's all a little bit desperate, probably because of the poorly written screenplay. It’s the fourth time Coogan is collaborating with Winterbottom, their first being the brilliant ‘24 Hour Party People’. Hopefully their next outing together won't have such a dreadful outcome.
For a movie that revolved largely around sex, there was unfortunately, no climax.