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Lay the Favorite


Stars: Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vince Vaughn, Joshua Jackson, Laura Prepon, John Carroll Lynch, Corbin Bernsen

Director: Stephen Frears

While we appreciate talented British actress Rebecca Hall's desire to play as wide a variety of roles as possible, this really is a step too far. And Rebecca gives it far, far too much welly (as do most of the cast) in this true story of a girl's experiences in the heady, high-speed world of the betshop side of gambling.

Seemingly a bimbette who seeks a career change from stripper-for-hire to Las Vegas cocktail waitress, Beth (Hall) actually has more of a talent both for letters (she can alphabeticalise any long word in a flash) and, more importantly, numbers - which soon makes her an integral part of the set-up run by Dink (Willis), the uncrowned king of LV (legal) betting, who will take bets on anything.

Beth also has plans to bed him at the first opportunity, a dodgy ploy considering his wife (Zeta-Jones) is only slightly less formidable than Attila the Hun. She is, however, also seen as a jinx, while the excitable Beth seems more like a four-leaf clover.

There's another romantic interest in journalist Jeremy (Jackson) and an eventual parting from Dink at wifey's wishes, as Beth goes to work for (illegal) New York bookie Rosey (Vaughn) and gets to run his operation in CuraƧao. But a welshing better (Lynch, billed in the credits as John Caroll Lynch) threatens to land Beth (and Jeremy) in jail.

An awful lot of screeching, shouting and swearing robs the film of most of its intended feelgood feel, while the actors tackle the indifferent script with way too much ferocity - Hall especially, who is simply unable to reconcile the contrasting aspects of her character with any conviction. And she seems to make it up far too easily with Zeta-Jones before the end.

NB: While the film is advertised as Lay the Favourite, the credits retain the American spelling.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Entertainment-One. Technicolor.
94 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 18 Jun 2012