Lay the Favorite  (2012)    53/100

Rating :   53/100                                                                       94 Min        15

In all honesty, the trailer featuring Rebecca Hall gaudily showing lots of flesh was what first attracted The Red Dragon’s attention to this film. Wondering if this was quite merit enough for him to sit and watch it, he was further intrigued by the fact that her accent and entire demeanour were both entirely contrary to anything she has done before. It’s from director Stephen Frears (‘Dangerous Liaisons’ 88, ‘High Fidelity’ 2000, ‘The Queen’ 06) and Ms Hall plays the central character of Beth Raymer, whose autobiographical novel of the same name the film is based on. It follows her story, from casual sex industry dabbler in Florida to professional bookie in Vegas and Central America.

Hall’s performance is a very convincing one and she deserves a lot of credit for daring to take on the role in the first place. Her American accent is unwavering and markedly different from her natural English one, as she fully inhibits the free spirited and talented with numbers Ms Raymer. Indeed, her performance would by itself rate very highly, although some may be put off by the character and the film’s heavy and unfair reliance on her to carry the whole, as it meanders through the story in a fairly messy way. We aren‘t really invited to invest in her as a character as, right from the offset, too much emphasis is placed on her as an object of sexual attraction, almost to the point where she‘s cinematically fetishised. Interesting that this follows on the back of Frear’s ‘Tamara Drew’ (10) and there too a highly sexualised main character, played by Gemma Arterton.

The film does pick up a bit, before degenerating into dull, dangerously close to day time soap opera territory. Bruce Willis is OK in support, and Catherine Zeta-Jones gives a much needed injection of comedy and drama. Indeed, perhaps making more of her character would have added something of more interest to that of the film. In general very average, and probably best left for fans of Rebecca Hall and/or Stephen Frears.

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