The story opens in London in 1992. Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) returns to his flat after attending the funeral of his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots). Raymond plays a videotape of a TV programme he and Debbie took part in and reflects on their lives.
In a flashback to the late 1950s, Raymond is an impresario on the seaside variety show circuit, where he is making a name for himself by adding semi-nude women to his stage acts. After a lion attacks the show's dancers, his wife Jean (Anna Friel) joins the show. When the Daily Sketch claims that Jean performed nude, Raymond sues the newspaper unsuccessfully but appreciates the ensuing publicity, after which Raymond launches his London strip club, the Raymond Revue Bar. Its success allows him to expand his property empire and also indulge in a playboy lifestyle, which his wife tolerates.
In the early 1970s, Raymond moves into theatrical revues and casts aspiring actress Amber St. George (Tamsin Egerton) in a nude revue. Raymond moves in with her and his marriage to Jean ends. Raymond also agrees to meet a grown son, Derry, he sired out of wedlock, but after an awkward dinner together, he gives Derry no more of his time. Tony Power is approached by Paul Raymond to run a men's magazine, Men Only. Tony Power, who was only in his 20's at the time, was subsequently corrupted into a sleazy world by Paul Raymond, ending in his untimely demise. The magazine is a huge success, in part thanks to roving sex reporter Fiona Richmond, St. George's pseudonym. Raymond continues to enjoy a hedonistic, coke-fuelled lifestyle. This becomes too much for St. George and their relationship ends.
Into this mix, his daughter Debbie is introduced. Initially, Raymond tries to make her a star in his theatrical ventures, but she lacks talent and the show is an unprecedented failure for her.
Debbie marries musician Jonathan Hodge. Jean returns for the wedding and volunteers to pose nude for Raymond's magazine. In the delivery room, Debbie gives birth to a girl after sniffing a line of coke that her father provides. She dies in 1992 of a heroin overdose.
After the funeral, Raymond returns home with his granddaughter, pointing out the property he owns that will someday belong to her. An epilogue reveals that in December 1992, he was the richest man in Britain.
The Look of Love was originally called The King of Soho until that title had to be dropped due to a legal dispute.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a 55 % approval rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 71 collected reviews, with an average score of 5.7 out of 10. The site's consensus reads: "While it may not add up to the definitive Paul Raymond biopic -- or take full advantage of Steve Coogan's many gifts -- The Look of Love still proves an entertainingly old-fashioned look at the Swinging London of the 1960s." It holds a Metacritic score of 57 out of 100, based on 20 sampled reviews, indicating "mixed to average reviews." Imogen Poots was featured on the inaugural Guardian Film Awards longlist, nominated for Best Actor.