DVD Review: Lay the Favorite

STUDIO: Anchor Bay | DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears | CAST: Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joshua Jackson, Laura Prepon, Vince Vaughn, Wendell Pierce, Corbin Bernsen
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 3/4/2013 | PRICE: DVD $24.98, Blu-ray $29.99
BONUSES: deleted scenes (BD only)
SPECS: R | 94 min | Comedy | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

It’s hard to believe a film with a cast that features Bruce Willis (Looper), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Rock of Ages), Vince Vaughn (The Dilemma) and Rebecca Hall (The Town) and directed by Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, The Queen) would barely raise any eyebrows (or interest), but such was a case with the 2012 comedy Lay the Favorite, an enjoyable true story based on Lay the Favorite: A Story About Gamblers, Beth Raymer’s 2010 memoir on the world of gambling.

Lay The Favorite movie scene

Rebecca Hall (r.) and Catherine Zeta-Jones are so money in Lay the Favorite.

Hall plays the real-life Beth Raymer (Hall), a stripper looking for a new life in Las Vegas. She finds it working as a runner in a busy sports betting operation owned by Dink (Willis). After showing potential with her enthusiastic attitude and expertise with numbers, Beth impresses her boss and coworkers, but causes friction with Dink’s jealous and pampered wife (Zeta-Jones), who demands he fire his new protégé. Then things begin to get complicated.

What makes the movie a pleasure is the unpredictability of where these characters’ paths will lead and a genuinely colorful supporting group of characters, like Willis’ wired gambling rival (Vaughn), a journalist whom Beth falls for (Joshua Jackson, TV’s Dawson’s Creek), a former basketball star with a serious wagering problem (John Carroll Lynch, Paul), and a host of bookies and betting degenerates.

Released theatrically to a few dozen theaters in December, 2012 and available on demand for the past couple of months, Lay the Favorite is an entertaining, well-paced amalgam that deftly alternates between character study, comedy and gambling expose. And it’s worth making a bet on one night.


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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.