Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. United Kingdom/USA, 2013. Revolution Films, Baby Cow Films, Film Four, Lipsync Productions. Screenplay by Matt Greenhalgh, based on the book Members Only: The Life And Times Of Paul Raymond by Paul Willetts. Cinematography by Hubert Taczanowski. Produced by Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by
Anyone who felt that the shadier side of Larry Flynt was being glossed over in Milos Forman’s 1996 comedy will find much more to satisfy them in this very entertaining biopic of Paul Raymond (played by Steve Coogan), the man who built an empire on naked girls that eventually made him the richest man in England. Raymond produced stage shows that featured scantily clad ladies and drew multitudes to the theatre, then later created Men Only magazine, owned a number of clubs and invested in a multitude of properties and businesses that made him super wealthy. His accomplishments also made getting gorgeous ladies into the sack super easy, but of course a life with this much triumph is not without its tragic compromises. Raymond’s first marriage, to a superb Anna Friel, ends in bitter acrimony, while his relationship with his son is perpetually strained and his attempts to make a success of his moderately talented daughter (Imogen Poots) brings him nothing but heartache. Michael Winterbottom recreates the details of the freewheeling seventies lifestyle of the super rich and morally lax without the kind of nagging guilt that would inspire Martin Scorsese into a three hour running time, instead efficiently going through the highlights of Raymond’s ups and downs without ever stopping to take a breath. This high-toned pace is also the reason why the experience never really sinks in, however, with superb performances (especially the always charismatic Coogan, who is never afraid of the unsavoury aspects of even his most appealing characters) compensating for a lack of any kind of dramatic contemplation of the situations that are being exposed. That said, it also does not overstay its welcome the way 24 Hour Party People did, and it is frequently humorous in the way it views its subject’s hubris without ever being unfairly judgmental about it.