Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lay the Favorite

Complete the following sentences with the correct form of "lie" or "lay." (Answers below.)

1.) The maid has _____ the duvet over the bed each morning for the past six years.

2.) Among them, the three hens _____ all of the eggs consumed on the farm.

3.) The couch potato _____ on the divan all afternoon watching football games.

4.) The curio has _____ on the étagѐre since Theresa brought it back from Bangalore.

5.) The vacationers had no more important plan for the morning than to _____ their blanket on the sand and _____ on it for hours.

That little quiz is more diverting and informative than anything in director Stephen Frears' new insta-bomb "Lay the Favorite," which proves there is something Rebecca Hall can't do: play dumb. She stars as Beth, who moves to Las Vegas with dreams of becoming a cocktail waitress only to find those are union jobs. Almost at random, Bruce Willis' Dink (owner of Dink, Inc.) plucks her from a flip-to-win machine and gives her a great job placing phone bets and running pay-and-collects for his sports betting business. ("We work every day from 8 to 5, with four hours for lunch from 10 to 2.") Willis' frosty, face-lifted wife, Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones, whose immense weight loss seems to have aged her ten years), wants Beth fired, but Dink says she's brought him good luck. The biggest laugh in the picture comes when the camera focuses on Zeta-Jones' smiling face as Willis tells her if she lets Beth stay, she can have "anything she wants" - never mind that the two make the unlikeliest screen couple since Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand in "Rock of Ages."

Frears was once among the most reliable of directors, turning out strong films from "Dangerous Liaisons," "The Grifters," and "The Snapper" to "Dirty Pretty Things" and "The Queen." He's fallen gravely out of form lately, as the manic, lurching shifts in tone here attest. It's possible for a light gambling comedy with a good cast to prove surprisingly entertaining (take the Richard Dreyfuss picture "Let it Ride"), but "Lay the Favorite" wastes the aforementioned players as well as an effortful Vince Vaughn. It takes place entirely in Movieland - with its 555 phone numbers and a cringe-inducing climax involving a bet on a basketball game between "New Jersey" and "Los Angeles" on a sports network called "XPN." Just pay the money and use real NBA footage, like the Kasdans did in their great opening sequence to "Grand Canyon." Through the ersatz "Lay the Favorite" wafts the noisome odor of phoniness and desperation.

Answers: 1.) laid; 2.) laid; 3.) lay; 4.) lain; 5.) lay, lie.

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