Review of Lay the Favorite.
Rebecca Hall makes a funny floozy but Sundance comedy Lay The Favorite fails to deliver.
The smartest move director Stephen Frears (Tamara Drewe) makes with his adaptation of Beth Raymer's gambling memoir Lay The Favorite is also his most surprising. British actress Rebecca Hall claims a diverse career with recent roles in the horror movie The Awakening and the crime drama The Town but nothing like her performance as Beth, the stripper-turned-sports bettor at the heart of the romantic comedy Lay The Favorite, making its debut in the Premieres section of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Hall is fantastically funny with a squeaky voice and she shimmies like an expert dancer but the rest of the movie sputters around her.
The result is a rare misstep for Frears and a missed opportunity at bringing to life the incredible story of Beth Raymer, who went from being stripper-for-hire to a lucrative job working for a professional sports gambler.
Hall gives Lay The Favorite but as the film's script sputters, there's little she can do no matter how well she shakes her hips.
Beth (Hall) leaves Tallahassee Florida and stripping behind for a new life in Las Vegas as a cocktail waitress. Things turn out differently with Beth landing a job with professional sports bettor Dink (Bruce Willis). Beth has natural talent when it comes to betting but Dink's jealous wife Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones) wants the pretty employee fired, Of course, Beth falls for Dink anyway.
The sexpot savant is nothing new going back to Judy Holiday in Born Yesterday and Mira Sorvino in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite but Hall makes a worthy addition to the character type.
Bruce Willis gives an easygoing and likable performance as Dink, the nicest professional gambler you'll ever meet, but he fails to provide a much-needed spark to the movie.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is unrecognizable as Dink's demanding wife and delivers some of the film’s best jokes but she's not in the movie enough to make a sizable impact.
Laura Prepon (That 70s Show) shows sparkle as Beth’s friend Holly and Vince Vaughn brings his trademark sass to the role of Rosie, a competing sports bettor.
Screenwriter D.V. DeVincentis (High Fidelity, Grosse Pointe Blank) adapts Raymer's memoir about the world of high-stakes gambling and midway into the movie it's clear he needed to be a bit more radical with his adaptation in order to make a movie equal to the entertaining book.
Frears is a longtime Sundance veteran with his films The Hit and The Grifters and while every new Frears movie is something to anticipate Lay The Favorite turns out to be that rare stumble and letdown after the entertaining Tamara Drewe.
The magic of the movies revolves around chance and while Lay the Favorite looks like a can't-miss story due to its source material and cast it's in fact something of a disaster.
It happens to the best of directors, even Stephen Frears.
Director: Stephen Frears
Screenwriter: D.V. DeVincentis baded on the book Lay The Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joshua Jackson, Laura Prepon
Producers: Wild Bunch, Ruby Films, Emmett/Furla Films
Cinematographer: Michael McDonough
Editor: Mick Audsley
Music: James Seymour Brett