Ben Oliver

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Lay the Favorite

There are people with MBAs working in Olive Garden. What am I going to do?
06 September 2020

Rebecca Hall plays a happy-go-lucky stripper headed to Vegas in search of a new career. She encounters a guy who makes a living betting (Bruce Willis). She then falls for him, but they decide it won’t work because he’s married to Catherine Zeta-Jones.

His luck starts to fail so he begs her to come back purely platonically. He gets angry at her so she leaves for New York and starts working for an illegal gambling ring. She then calls Bruce and Catherine (who now doesn’t care they nearly shagged) to help Rebecca out and for some reason they agree.

Frears fails to explain what the hell is actually going on with the gambling, and fails to show any kind of relationship between Hall and Willis beyond them nearly having an affair. Unfortunately, the whole story rests on this, so Lay the Favorite is a total failure.

Rebecca Hall is a wonderful actress, but that’s about all there is to say about Lay the Favorite. It’s a disjointed mess that takes you on a nonsensical journey through the world of betting. Quite surprising to see this from Stephen Frears, an experienced director. Plus, it cost $20m to make, so I’d wager there are some interesting stories behind the production of this one…