"If I were a betting man, I'd say the chances of you enjoying this film are pretty slim to none..."
When a film promotes itself as a 'Dramedy' that's when you know you're en route to seeing a film that is neither a challenging drama, nor a funny comedy, and instead loitering carelessly in between the two, and for director Stephen Frears, Lay the Favourite unfortunately falls into that very category.
Based on the eponymous, real-life memoirs of Beth Raymer, Lay the Favourite delves into the life of the troubled woman, on the road to nowhere and making petty cash as a call-out stripper. Beth, played by Rebecca Hall, moves to Las Vegas seeking a route out of her mundane life, desperately hoping to be employed. Her wish comes true as notorious bookmaker Dink (Bruce Willis) takes her on.
Beth is good with numbers and earns the trust of her latest employer, but sadly not that of his wife Tulip's (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Beth is then fired and she moves to New York where she falls in love with Jeremy (Joshua Jackson) and takes on a job under the erratic Rosie (Vince Vaughn) - yet in the state of New York bookmaking is illegal. Therefore Beth, despite having finally found her feet and settled down into a career, must therefore decide whether she has a future within the gambling world, or to try something new, and preserve the safety of herself and Jeremy.
There have been countless films based around gambling, such as Casino, 21 and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and all of which have the central theme of gambling but provide a host of different subjects surrounding the vice, using gambling as a mere back-drop the story. However, Lay the Favourite offers very little in that regard, and instead we are treated to the more tedious aspects of gambling; the facts, the figures and the odds. This isn't interesting to an audience and as a result the film is somewhat boring.
It's just a nothing story, and one must question what made anyone take Raymer's memoirs and think it would make a good feature film. The plot is thin and doesn't really go anywhere, leaving you to feel highly unsatisfied. Frears also fails to excel in an given genre, at this film certainly can't be classed as a comedy, as it simply isn't funny, whilst is also can't be classed a drama or thriller, as it's neither dramatic nor thrilling. Until the film makers work out what type of film they're putting out, how on earth are we supposed to figure it out?
The only saving grace to this picture and the one thing that prevents it from truly bombing, is the performances of the leading cast members, particularly that of Hall. In somewhat of a different role to what we have become accustomed to with the talented actress, she proves just how versatile she is, taking to the dizzy American idealist like a duck to water. It's just a shame for her that she is stuck inside an uninteresting character with a poor script to work with. We feel no emotional attachment to Beth in this film, something that is a complete necessity given she is our lead and we are accompanying her on her journey of self-discovery.
Lay the Favourite is simply a forgettable film that offers very little to it's audience. Despite the occasional enjoyable sequence - generally taking place amidst a Willis rant where he shouts and punches things - the narrative is weak and the story too thin. If I were a betting man, I'd say the chances of you enjoying this film are pretty slim to none.