This is the year that the long gestating Alan Partridge Movie is due to appear. Until August, though, we’ll have to make do with another Michael Winterbottom film in which Coogan most determinedly doesn’t play Partridge.

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This time round he is not playing Partridge as Paul Raymond. Coogan’s incarnation of the name on top of the Soho Revue Bar certainly isn’t Partridge, but he sure is the spit of his Tony Wilson in 24-Hour Party People.

Though Coogan is multi-talented and a master impressionist, he only has one (successful) comic voice. He has to play pompous, pseudo self-aware monsters.

They are insecure enough to need to let you know how clever/successful they are, yet secure enough to acknowledge their insecurity. So Coogan’s Raymond will quote Oscar Wilde and then mention that it was a quote from Wilde. He even throws in a Brando impersonation and, at this point, you suspect Coogan is Raymond in wig only.

Coogan and Winterbottom are a great pairing (A Cock and Bull Story, The Trip) but every subject comes out much the same. Tony Wilson was certainly something of a pillock, but watching 24-Hour Party People you wondered what the creator of Factory Records had ever done to deserve being played by Steve Coogan.

Paul Raymond was a self-made man who came to London from Liverpool in the 1950s and rose from doing a mind reading act to become Britain’s richest man, owning most of Soho and pushing the barriers of hardcore pornography. To have thrived in that industry he must have done plenty of things to deserve being played by Coogan, but you don’t see them here.

The Raymond of this film is a slightly sad playboy, always drinking champagne and being driven around in his Rolls with personalised number plates.

Certainly he isn’t a nice man but he isn’t that nasty either and you never get any sense of the drive that would build the biggest porn and property empire this country has ever seen. The film is light and breezy throughout and this is probably preferable to a hard-nosed tragic version.

But it is so throwaway, it barely communicates even the most basic facts of his story. It is enjoyable but afterwards you will be left wondering if Paul Raymond was anything like that.

THE LOOK OF LOVE (18)

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Steve Coogan, Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton, Imogen Poots, Chris Addison and James Lance

Length: 100 mins

***

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