Lay the Favorite is the film adaptation of Beth Raymer’s memoir detailing her life in the world of sports gambling. Director Stephen Frears gathered an impressive cast with everyone from Bruce Willis to Catherine Zeta Jones taking key roles.
It passed through theaters relatively unnoticed and didn’t get much attention from critics. Now, with the film’s release on Blu-ray and DVD this week, audiences will have a better chance at discovering Raymer’s story and her days as a rising star in the world of sports gambling.
Beth (Rebecca Hall) is a private exotic dancer dreaming of better things when she has the idea to run to Vegas and become a cocktail waitress. Things escalate when she is hired by famed sports gambler Dink (Bruce Willis) and gets tossed into a world unfamiliar to her. Complications ensue when everything from love, trust and travel get thrown into the mix.
Lay the Favorite is a mostly harmless endeavor that is far better than most critics suggested. Willis gives one of his best recent performances, giving a funny, emotional turn that will surprise those accustomed to his action movie heroics. Vince Vaughn, Frank Grillo and Catherine Zeta-Jones are also impressive, making Favorite watchable even during its rough patches.
What weighs down Favorite are one major miscasting and its wandering point of view.
The very talented Hall portrays the main character as someone who is completely clueless until the final few minutes, and she’s hard to root for or even like for most of the film. The performance just feels wrong.
Lay the Favorite also can’t settle down long enough for us to get to know characters or get any real grip on the motifs the film is trying to delve into. Our protagonist goes from one state to the next, one guy to next, one job to the next, one life crisis to the next like they were all going out of style … tomorrow!
Lay the Favorite never allows itself to settle so the story can feel rushed and this pace combined with the fact that Beth is mostly unlikable make it hard to care about anything happening in the film. The only aspects holding this thing together are the surrounding cast, an enjoyable new world we wish we got more of and solid direction from professional Frears.
Overall, Lay the Favorite is a mixed bag but far from terrible. It’s a harmless 90-minutes that is worth a watch merely for the performances and a pretty neat story. It’s one of those flicks where you feel like everyone making it had a zillion times more fun than you had watching it.
The only special feature on the Blu-Ray disk is a collection of deleted scenes that are mostly fluff and can be easily skipped.