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Wick's Review

Created Aug 13, 2013 05:51PM PST • Edited Oct 02, 2016 01:34AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Very Good 3.5

    True stories bear a burden when they get turned into movies. Stay true to the story and the movie will be less than spectacular. Punch it up and get accused of selling out.

    Lay the Favorite falls prey to the former as it recounts a real young woman’s underground education. The indomitable Beth Raymer began with sex work, followed by gambling work, followed by journalistic work. Exciting life? Yes. Unconventional? Extremely.

    Major motion picture worthy? Only partially, though a very good movie does result.

    It’s certainly the sexiest Rebecca Hall’s been, playing the aforementioned Beth, an eager hardbody with latent math skills. Her sister star Catherine Zeta-Jones turns in a high caliber performance as a rich gambler’s pampered trophy wife. Tulip’s her name. She and Beth are gonna have some conflict.

    The males disappoint amongst the starring foursome. Bruce Willis is too lean to be Dink, an overweight, neurotic gambler, albeit an extremely successful one. Playing phlegmatic just doesn’t suit Willis.

    Some dude named Joshua Jackson completes the quartet, giving hope to plain-looking bores everywhere.

    Fortunately Bruce Willis more than meets his match in Vince Vaughn as a fellow big-time gambler. This is the best role in years for Vaughn. He sizzles, just like we like him.

    Hall’s Beth comes on to Willis’s Dink, leading to an equal and opposite Zeta-Jones’ Tulip reaction. Fun.

    The movie is affecting in the end because of Dink & Tulip. Gambling’s more important to him than sex, and his wife is most important to him of all. You could call that Laying the Favorite.

  3. Very Good 3.5

    Rebecca Hall opens the movie and is in most every scene. Cheerfully sexy, playing an overtly sexy role, she’s a hardbody always pushing her chest out, legitimately girl-next-gorgeous notwithstanding her funny face. Think that’s harsh? Playing the real-life Beth Raymer, she opens the movie giving lap dances in private homes. Such a role begs an assessment of her sexiness. She passes with flying colors.

    She also delivers a great performance. But we knew she could act. We didn’t know she could be hot.

    Catherine Zeta-Jones enticed me to this movie and didn’t let me down. Her Tulip is a woman Willis isn’t nuts to be nuts over. Love her in Intolerable Cruelty? You’ll also treasure her here.

    Bruce Willis won’t be looking for Lay the Favorite on his Known For list. Playing Dink the Gambler, he’s called upon to be more phlegmatic than laconic. Chalk it up more to miscasting than poor performance.

    Joshua Jackson fades into the scenery as the nice guy who gets lucky with Hall’s Beth Raymer.

    Vince Vaughn deserves special notice, not because he’s a big star, but because he plays a hyper guy who’s kinda out of control. IOW, a primo Vince Vaughn character. Whadda get? Vaughn’s best role in years.

    Notable Supporters:

    • Corbin Bernsen cameos as Beth’s Dad, ever enthusiastic about his daughter’s bad choices. If you watch this after Intolerable Cruelty, Bernsen completes the L.A. Law connection.
    • Rio Hackford in the mix somewhere as Magic.
    • Jo Newman & Laura Prepon as Beth’s Vegas sisterhood, ever ready to drop tops or lay a huge bet.
    • Frank Grillo heats things up a bit as a gambler’s lieutenant.
  4. Male Stars Good 3.0
  5. Female Stars Great 4.0

    Rebecca Hall and Catherine Zeta-Jones

  6. Female Costars Good 3.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0

    Vince Vaughn

  8. Very Good 3.5

    The film’s main problem is that the dialog doesn’t sparkle, notwithstanding some solid lines. No doubt this is because it adheres to a true story. The decision to limit any creative license is admirable but costly.

    A very good film does result from Beth Raymer’s autobiography, also titled Lay the Favorite. Want to know more about the source material? The NY Times’ review of the book is worth a read.

  9. Direction Very Good 3.5
  10. Play Very Good 3.5

    “You know when you don’t need taking care of anymore is when you decide to start taking care of someone else.” Good lines are rarely so long.

  11. Music OK 2.5
  12. Visuals Great 4.0
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.0

    Improbably R, notwithstanding two pairs of boobs that get flashed during a sunbathing scene. Otherwise it’s visually tame and only mildly profane.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.6
  16. Violence Fierce 1.8
  17. Rudeness Profane 2.6
  18. Glib 1.1

    Lay the Favorite provides a fascinating peak into big time sports betting, not only in Vegas, but in NYC and offshore.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.3
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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