Lay the Favorite
Sport of a different nature is the order of the day in Stephen Frears’s Lay the Favorite, adapted from the true story by Beth Raymer. She’s played by Frears’s fellow Brit, Rebecca Hall, who is a stripper named – yes! – Beth. Her father (Corbin Bernsen) encourages her to make her dreams come true by moving to Las Vegas, where, despite being a cocktail waitress, she soon falls in with a crowd populated by professional gambler Dink (Willis), and his wife Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones, cropping up in her second movie of the week).
The book made for pretty diverting reading but it doesn’t appear as if the translation onto screen has been wholly successful. “The dialogue is shrill, the emotional moments are foghorned with deafening musical cues, and every scene is lit like an advert for orange juice,” slams the Daily Telegraph. “Particularly disappointing given the names involved, it’s only mildly amusing at best, and more often downright tedious,” is the slightly milder conclusion offered by Empire. Yet Time Out London doesn’t feel that all bets are off, but rather praises the director and cast: “Frears’s strongest hand is a set of colorful characters played with verve: Hall is all heart and smiles as Beth, always keeping on the right side of a tart-with-a-brain act; Willis downplays the more caricatured tics (limping, knee-high socks, repeated scratching) of awkward but successful Dink; and Zeta-Jones lets her glare do the talking.” But from the sound of it, most of the glaring will come from the audience.