Lay the Favorite (15)


I'm not sure Rebecca Hall could demean herself more than she does in this comedy-drama as a one-time stripper who lights out to Vegas in search of a new career.

Hall plays with her hair, talks in a girly voice and wears tiny shorts as she becomes the protégée of Bruce Willis's old-school gambler, running his errands and falling for his avuncular charms.

For a supposedly great director of actors, Stephen Frears doesn't do much to help her, or anyone else; he allows Vince Vaughn more or less to shout his entire part.

The plot flits between Vegas, New York and the Caribbean, giving full rein to D V DeVincentis's jabbering dialogue while utterly failing to work up any dramatic momentum or meaning.

The denouement involves the laying of a large bet whose outcome seems not to matter one way or the other. It's a shocking bore, one of the worst of Frears' substantial career, but the agony is watching Rebecca Hall in her first serious flop.