Feb. 20, 2013
Lay The Favorite is a film ostensibly about gambling in Las Vegas
(and New York), but is really about relationships and about a young woman finding
her place in the world. And while it takes a while to find its footing, the
film ultimately succeeds in drawing us in and making us care about its
characters. It stars Bruce Willis, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joshua
Jackson and Vince Vaughn, and was directed by Stephen Frears, who also directed The Grifters, The Snapper,
High Fidelity, and The Queen.
Beth (Rebecca Hall), a
stripper in Florida, feels a need to change her life after a client pulls a gun
on her. She decides to move to Las Vegas and become a cocktail waitress (is
that really much of a change?). After asking one random person how to get a job
as a cocktail waitress, she gives up on her dream. But two girls that she is
suddenly friends with recommend she see Dink (Bruce Willis), a professional
gambler. He hires her, though she clearly knows nothing about gambling. But she
is good with numbers. The problem for us as viewers is it’s all pretty easy for
her - she just sort of falls into this.
Beth develops a crush on
Dink, and though he is a married man, she aggressively flirts with him. His
wife Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is something of a mess, but she’s gorgeous. This
is a different role for Catherine Zeta-Zones, and she does a good job with it.
Dink fires Beth because
Tulip says she’s coming between them. One thing I love about this film is that
Dink and Tulip really love each other. I
like that this doesn’t become a film about him falling for Beth and planning on
dumping his wife – we’ve seen that too many times.
That are a lot of good scenes, though they seem a bit
rushed, a bit short, particularly in the first half of the film. For example, I
want more of the scene between Dink and Tulip at home when she’s drinking. I
want to see more of that relationship.
Beth is depressed, but
she soon bounces back and meets Jeremy (Joshua Jackson) and decides to move to
New York with him. But when Dink needs her back, she goes back to work with
him, sending Jeremy to New York on his own. However, she is soon let go again,
and so moves to New York. (The movie does seem to bounce around a lot, like Beth’s
thought process, never being completely rational. But I like that the film
doesn’t take the obvious path.)
So in New York she’s
playing basketball, and an offhand remark by one of the players, Dave Greenberg
(John Caroll Lynch), incites her to look up Rosie (a bookie played by Vince
Vaughn that she met earlier in Las Vegas) and to begin working for him. She
takes bets from Dave Greenberg and his friends, though in New York, it’s
dangerous, because it’s illegal.
Lay The Favorite is a character-driven film. This isn’t a movie
about that one big score, and it doesn’t devolve into some ridiculous shoot-out
or anything. This is a film that I enjoyed more as it went on.
Also, the actual sports
gambling scenes seem believable to me. I know nothing about gambling, but these
scenes ring true. And yes, I like that
plush hamster toy that plays “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”
This DVD contains one
bonus feature, Deleted Scenes. There are eleven deleted scenes, some of which I
wish the filmmakers had left in. Basically, the later ones are the better
Lay The Favorite is scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-ray
through Anchor Bay on March 5, 2013.