29 April 2013 | clivey6
Steve Coogan was turned down for the lead in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, losing out to Geoffrey Rush, and I get the feeling this is his attempts to compensate. It is a biopic with a retro look, encompassing the same era and focused on an oft unsympathetic individual who goes on to neglect his wife and kids.
The problem is that Sellers was a man of a hundred faces while Paul Raymond seems to have none, he always came across as a deeply uncharismatic, grey little man so instead Coogan pastes his own TV persona onto him. It's not quite Partridge, but we've seen it before in 24 Hour Party People and in things like Tristram Shandy and The Trip, where Coogan plays an unflattering version of himself - sort of narcissistic, insecure, a bit sarcastic and witty, not without flair.
I didn't mind this in the Tony Wilson biopic, largely because that was played for laughs and also looked outwards to the whole Manchester music scene, but I did mind it here. We really have no clearer idea of Raymond's personality at the end of it - it maybe should have looked at the hangers on a bit more and the world of Soho generally. What's more, the pop music tends to date better than soft porn. For this to be a celebration of the Raymond Revue Bar, you'd have to contrast the buxom babes with the dour, pinched women of the era, starchy Margot Ledbetters and Margaret Thatchers, with hornrimmed spectacles and never a day in the gym. (Not saying the blokes looked much better back then to be fair. A quick look on Google Images reveals that the real Raymond was severely balding even by the mid 1960s, so must have sported a heavy hairpiece for his lothario years.)
Imogen Poots is poignant as his daughter, and they try to make out she's the same fit as newspaper proprietor Kane's wife, with similar ill-advised showbiz ambitions. Poots gets to sing the title track rather affectingly, the other song on a loop is Anyone Who Had a Heart, so maybe they were going to go with that title for the film at one point. But it's all very broadly written, and too much improvised it seems. Chris Addison impresses as one of the hangers- on, but I couldn't help thinking (due to his look in this) that we'd be better watching a history of Radio 1, with Addison as DLT and Coogan as the odious Jimmy Savile.
As for other stars, Stephen Fry plays a judge and is in this for less than a minute, David Walliams has a recurring cameo as a lecherous vicar, the sort of role that Terry Scott would have played, but is given no backstory or context to speak of, while Matt Lucas plays a stage character for all of 30 seconds. So don't be fooled by scrolling down the cast list, it's fairly slim pickings and at times it resembles those awful No Sex Please We're British movies of the day. You do get a fair bit of sex, with coke snorting atop many a bare breast, so it's not one to watch with the folks, but I can't say it's quite as erotic as I'd like, maybe because tastes have moved on since then.