"Playing the Odds"
What You Need To Know:
LAY THE FAVORITE has a great cast. The performances are solid, especially by Bruce Willis. However, the direction drifts because of poor pacing and some cheap-looking sets. Even so, some clever, funny dialogue and plot twists, combined with some positive values, make LAY THE FAVORITE enjoyable. Despite that, extreme caution is warranted for excessive foul language, some lewd content, brief nudity, and lots of gambling references.
(PaPa, Ro, B, LLL, V, S, NN, AA, DD, MM) Strong mixed pagan worldview with Romantic, pagan and moral elements with a positive view of marriage but set in the world of gambling in Las Vegas; 79 obscenities and profanities; light comic violence when boss gets angry at employees and throws things but later sheepishly asks them back to work; sexual immorality includes implied fornication between young couple who later get married, kissing, married man rejects advances by younger woman and repairs his own marriage, suggestive dancing by female lead who leaves her job as a stripper, female lead works as an escort but falls for her first client and they eventually get married; upper female nudity when two women sunbathe topless and some upper male nudity in swimming pool scene; alcohol use and drunkenness; woman walks in on people doing drugs, she chastises them and they quit; and, lots of gambling references in a gambling setting, lying, betrayal, references to luck, and woman has to blackmail a client in order to get him to pay what he owes.
LAY THE FAVORITE is a breezy, caper-style comedy set in the world of legal and illegal sports gambling. Based on a true story, it’s about a young woman who gains self-confidence as a numbers runner working under a gambling boss in Las Vegas. There’s strong negative content overall, so extreme caution is advised.
The plot follows the story of a misguided young woman named Beth, played by Rebecca Hall. Working as a stripper in Florida, she decides she’d rather be a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas. With her dog in tow, she moves to Vegas with no solid plans on how to begin her new career.
Beth at first appears to be an annoying bimbo, but proves to have an amazing innate skill for figuring out number and letter combinations at breakneck speed. This talent gets her hired as a numbers runner for a gambling operation run by a man named Dink, played by Bruce Willis.
Desperate for affection and lacking self-confidence, Beth quickly swoons for Dink, but he’s married and determined to make his admittedly troubled marriage work. So, eventually, they develop a father-daughter kind of relationship. He advises Beth to use her brains rather than her sexuality to get ahead. Dink’s advice gives Beth some direction in her life, but his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) still gets jealous, so Dink has to let her go.
In New York, Beth gets involved in an illegal operation run by one of Dink’s competitors, played by Vince Vaughn. She needs Dink’s help, and that of her new journalist boyfriend (Joshua Jackson of TV’s FRINGE), to dig her way out of trouble.
LAY THE FAVORITE has a talented cast. The performances are solid, especially by Bruce Willis. However, the direction by Stephen Frears (HIGH FIDELITY, THE QUEEN) frequently drifts because of poor pacing. There’s also a clash of performing styles between Rebecca Hall’s high-strung portrayal of Beth and the seemingly bi-polar character of Bruce Willis, who veers between calm and concern and comically violent outbursts. Also, the cinematography and settings look unusually cheap at times. Thankfully, however, some clever, funny dialogue and surprising plot twists, combined with the positive values espoused by Bruce Willis’s character, make LAY THE FAVORITE more enjoyable. In fact, Dink is able to patch things up with his wife, and Beth gets married to the journalist.
Even so, extreme caution is warranted for excessive foul language, some lewd content, brief nudity, and lots of gambling references.