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Lay bets on Vegas gambling story

lay the favourite

(15A, general release, 94 minutes)

Director: Stephen Frears Stars: Bruce Willis, Rebecca Hall, Vine Vaughan, John Carroll Lynch, Catherine Zeta-Jones


Lay the Favourite is one of those salty, wiseass gambling films that should be hilarious and moving but somehow isn't.

Its problem, perhaps, is that it's based on a bestselling memoir by Beth Raymer, and is thus constrained by having to adhere too closely to reality.

Rebecca Hall, in any case, is Beth, who is here presented as a bright but flaky young lady who arrives in Las Vegas at a loose end and makes the acquaintance of a professional gambler called Dink Heimowitz (Bruce Willis).

Dink studies upcoming sporting events, and makes hefty bets from his high-tech office with the help of advisors.

Beth has a rare flair for numbers, so Dink hires her as his assistant. She is thrilled about this, as she feels drawn to the risk and low glamour of gambling. But things get complicated when she also falls in love with Dink, to the extreme displeasure of his botoxed and volatile wife, Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

Lay the Favourite has a good cast and a great director, but somehow never manages to spark to life. This is partly due to bad writing, but also to a storyline that has peaks and troughs but no real resolution or climax. The talented Hall's performance is shrill and irritating, and only Willis emerges with any credibility.

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