Michael Winterbottom vividly recreates swinging 1960s London in this biopic about one of Soho's most notorious figures. It's a lively and attention-grabbing film, but the cast and filmmakers never create a character we can identify with or care about, which leaves the film feeling a bit meaningless. And even if we're interested in the history, we are never able to feel the emotions.
As he did for Winterbottom in 24 Hour Party People, Steve Coogan plays a colourful real-life figure, this time Paul Raymond, also known as the King of Soho. Raymond made his fortune through strip clubs and lap-dancing venues, then expanded into publishing men's magazines before purchasing large swathes of property in London's artiest district. But his marriage to Jean (Friel) was strained by his rampant womanising, including a long-term relationship with actress-model Fiona Richmond (Egerton). And the main woman in Paul's life was his daughter Debbie (Poots), who was in line to inherit his fortune when she died of a heroin overdose in 1992.
The film is framed with Debbie's funeral, showing Raymond at his lowest point. But then, even when he was living the high life, his self-obsession casts a heavy shadow. Everyone in this story is just as lost in their own addictions. And it's sad to see Raymond himself never able to move on from his own early years, amassing a £1 billion fortune, which he left to Debbie's children when he died in 2008. Coogan bravely never tries to get us to sympathise with Raymond, delivering a focussed performance that's darkly bittersweet. Poots adeptly captures Debbie's inability to see her own talents as she falls into a whirlwind of drug abuse. And Friel and Egerton get the most engaging roles as woman thrown aside along the way.
Winterbottom keeps the film moving quickly, cleverly recreating the groovy 60s and 70s in the actual Soho locations and packing scenes with entertaining cameos that add to the film's deranged texture. But he's so intent on portraying Raymond's misogynistic approach to life that he himself manages to treat women like meat. With so much female nudity on display, the film is extremely leery. But we never feel like voyeurs: we start to think that Winterbottom himself might have enjoyed Raymond's shows rather too much.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Sunday 7th July 2013
Box Office USA: $14.6k
Distributed by: IFC Films
Production compaines: Revolution Films, Baby Cow Films, Film Four International
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Fresh: 39 Rotten: 32
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Producer: Melissa Parmenter
Screenwriter: Matt Greenhalgh
Starring: Steve Coogan as Paul Raymond, Anna Friel as Jean Raymond, Imogen Poots as Debbie Raymond, Tamsin Egerton as Fiona Richmond, Matt Lucas as Divine, David Walliams as Vicar, James Lance as Carl Snitcher, Sarah Solemani as Anna, Shirley Henderson as Rusty Humphries
Also starring: Melissa Parmenter
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