Lay the Favorite (2012)

Comedy
Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Ex-private dancer Beth aspires to be a Las Vegas cocktail waitress, when she falls in with Dink, a sports gambler. Sparks fly as she proves to be something of a gambling prodigy--much to the ire of Dink's wife, Tulip.
  • Weinstein Co. Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 22 Jun 2012 Released:
  • 04 Mar 2013 DVD Release:
  • $21.0k Box office:

Trailer:

Don't bet on it...3/10
Until a friend suggested going to see this movie, I hadn't even heard of it, and other than what I gathered from skimming the synopsis in the cinema-foyer listings-leaflet -it seemed to be some kind of comedy, and starred Bruce Willis as a gambler-, I wasn't sure what it was about.

And now, after sitting through all ninety-four incoherent, enervating minutes of it, I'm still not sure. One of my friends, who is usually uncritical and easily entertained, said he thought that "The Tree of Life" made more sense than this film.

Unlike Terrence Malick's "metaphysical masterpiece" however, there is no confusion here as to what the subject matter is (it's the life of professional gamblers), what is confusing is how that subject matter is presented, and how the narrative is (or isn't) constructed around it. For example, what was the intended tone of the movie, what was the film-maker trying to convey? Was it supposed to be amusing? entertaining? or moving? were we supposed to be excited, or to feel intellectually stimulated? Who knows. My main emotional reaction to the film was a kind of repulsion, because I felt like I was being exploited, like the film was insulting my intelligence and my basic humanity. Like I might expect to feel if I'd been suckered into spending an evening feeding coins to a slot machine.

The first 10 minutes were slightly amusing to be fair, but after that that it just descends into complete mind-numbing absurdity. You might think Vince Vaughn would offer some comic-relief but, for the brief appearances he makes, he's just going through the motions (though it's still the most convincing and consistent performance of the movie).

There was no tension, or intrigue, at all, for the first seventy minutes. I mean nothing seems to really matter to any of the characters, they behave so unrealistically, and incoherently. And when things finally seem to get real and there is some adversity for the characters to face, you just don't care because you can't feel sympathy for such pantomime puppets as these.

They could have gone more into the details, the mechanics, of the gambling operation, that might have been interesting, but they thought it would be better to pad the story out with completely vapid romantic-interest scenes.

Maybe, with the attraction of Willis, Zeta-Jones, Vaughn, (and Rebecca Hall's legs), it was thought that such things as humour, narrative direction, consistency and pacing, character development, etc., were unnecessary.

After seeing the movie, I learned that it was adapted from a book, that at least goes some way towards explaining why there were so many undeveloped, seemingly irrelevant details, obviously included for the sake of those that have read it. For example, Holly (Laura Pripon's character) keeps warning Beth that she is becoming "one of us", in the book there might be context for this but when you watch the film you're just like "what is this I don't even...."

But, even for those that have read the book, maybe more-so, this film will only bemuse and bewilder. While I'm informed the book was written in a 'picaresque' -and no doubt droll (not to mention self-deprecating) style-, on screen, without the benefit of a narrator, this translates into characters, like Beth, who starts off as some kind of cartoon-airhead-bimbo-stripper, sunbathing with baby-oil on her back, ending up as an extraordinarily articulate, mathematical genius, who goes on to become a writer... Rebecca Hall was a bad choice.

And another thing, I couldn't help feeling that this film was not-too-subtly trying to indoctrinate me. Maybe I'm just paranoid but, beyond just the obvious product placements (nice Mercedes being driven by Bruce Willis' Mr. Nice character), it's like they're glamorizing the lifestyle, and completely glossing over any moral issues, and Beth just follows the money from Las Vegas to New York to Curacao -are we supposed to admire that, to forget about community, and meaningful relationships, just go where the money is and keep working and consuming?-.

Whatever, I've wasted enough time on this drivel already, please heed my warning and don't waste yours.
unbelievably bad...1/10
Wow. Just wow. Easily one of the worst films (if you can really call it a film) I have ever seen. I spent the first half of the movie waiting for a punchline that never came. I thought maybe it was doing some kind of retro, pretend to be a B movie thing that would have some good laughs over how ironically lame it was. Nope. It really just is a B movie (and a terrible one at that) that somehow managed to trick big stars into it. I kept gasping in disbelief that the movie really could be that bad and still have big names. I thought maybe it was some lost movie that they decided to release now for some reason, but even that didn't make sense because even Bruce Willis' first movies were leagues better.

When I saw the cast list, I thought this would have to be at least okay. I mean it has B. Willis, C. Zeta-Jones, V. Vaughn, J. Jackson, and L. Prepon. All well know actors, and usually in decent films. I still can't believe that every one of these actors actually decided to do this film. It is just mind-blowing. This is easily the worst film of all of their careers, and the worst acting any of them has ever done. Even these stars couldn't overcome the script and make themselves look like good actors. If you were only listening and not paying much attention you wouldn't even know it was them, seriously. Then you would look up half way through the movie and it would blow your mind that it was these stars you were listening to, bumbling through their terribly lines.

Nothing about this movie was accurate or realistic at all. The script is terrible, the acting is terrible, and it looks like it was filmed by amateurs using cameras they bought from Futureshop. How did this movie possibly cost 20 million? I kid you not, Kevin Smith's "Clerks" looks like it has higher production value than this. No real plot either. No twists, no nothing. There is not one single interesting thing in this movie. I was only able to get through it so I could verify that it was bad all the way through. It is one of those movies you keep watching only because you just can't believe it is THAT bad.

The main character is played by Rebecca Hall (a complete unknown), and my god, what an atrocious acting job. Get ready for one of the worst I- can't-believe-they-put-this-person-in-a-movie performances you have ever seen. I feel bad for the girl working with such a poor script (even Willis appeared to be a bad actor in this), but man, I would be terribly surprised if she ever gets an acting job again, unless it is just for sex appeal.

I just can't emphasize how terrible this was. Just astonishingly bad. You won't believe your eyes. The only remotely redeeming quality is that Laura Prepon's breasts make an appearance, and I say this only jokingly. It certainly won't do anything for her career to get naked in this mess of a film.

The movie "The Room" is actually better than this, and it is widely regarded as the worst movie ever made.
not very good3/10
Rebecca Hall does an excellent job as a naive bookie in Lay. The other actors, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Vince Vaughn are great in their supporting roles, but.... This movie was poorly written: the jokes fall flat, the script doesn't develop enough so that the audience can care about the characters, the gambling is explained only enough so that gamblers can understand what the actors are doing and there is very little plot action that's not inside an office looking at TV screens with sports games on them. Stephen Frears, the director, has done some major work such as "the Queen," and "High Fidelity," and i would think he was brought in to save this, but it's shot so plainly, like a made for TV movie. I get the feeling that this was filmed in a couple weeks and everyone involved wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. I give it 3 out of 10 for Rebecca Hall's efforts and the fact that she comes off as incredibly sexy, but other then that, it's totally forgettable.
Engaging biography - not a story, though7/10
Beth (Rebecca Hall), having drifted into private dancing (home visits leading to small scale prostitution) decides to leave small-town Florida and head for Las Vegas, where a more fulfilling life as a cocktail waitress beckons. Alas, cocktail waitressing in Vegas is a difficult nut to crack, and beth ends up working for Dink (Bruce Wilis) who makes his living from his sports gambling company. What follows is the story of Beth's progress, and her involvement with Dink, his wife Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones), journalist Jeremy (Joshua Jackson), bookmaker Rosie (Vince Vaughan) and gambler Dave (John Carroll Lynch).

The need to classify films is sometimes a problem, and this is the case here. The closing titles tell us that Beth married Jeremy, took a degree and became a writer: the film is based on her personal memoir and, like real life, is episodic and unstructured. So, while it is often amusing, it is not a comedy, while it is sometimes dramatic it is not a drama and, in fact, it isn't really a story at all, it is simply a recollection of a period in her life.

My main criticism is that as someone who is not a sports fan and doesn't bet, big chunks of this movie were as opaque to me as a movie with big chunks set on the floor of a stock exchange would have been. I understand that this is inevitable, but it was something of a problem.

And this is a shame, because the film otherwise kept me occupied in a very agreeable manner. Rebecca Hall is a delight. Having played serious characters previously, with a tendency towards the plain, Beth is a sunny, engaging, leggy, sexy pleasure, but all the characters are quite nice people (which, frankly, I find unlikely, but that didn't matter: I enjoyed the film anyway. And it was a pleasure to see Vince Vaughan playing a different character.
This movie was awful.3/10
I'm generally a fan of comedies, and tend to prefer intelligent comedies to most dramas. Lay The Favorite wasn't funny, it wasn't entertaining and it felt so scattered that it was hard to follow any of the character's motivations. This felt like one of those movies where they just wanted to have a bunch of named stars so they could have fun on set. If the movie was allowed to be slightly slower or if they allowed the movie to be slightly longer it might have been able to gain footing but in it's current state by the time you've figured out why someone is doing something they're already four moves ahead of that. If you just want to see southern women depicted as ditsy sex objects and older men that wear Hawaiian shirts and gamble then this movie is for you.