Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shouldn't A Stripper Take Her Clothes Off?

A movie review:  Lay the Favorite
This is only the second time I’ve done a movie review on this blog (the first is here).  I’m only reviewing this particular film because its subject matter (Vegas and gambling) seem to be a fit for this blog. 
Recently I needed a movie to watch while resting my aching back on the couch. Looking through the “on demand” offerings of my cable provider, I didn’t find a whole lot of interesting options (I guess that’s why my movie going has diminished drastically lately).  But then I saw the title “Lay the Favorite” which caught my attention.  It sounded familiar, and when I looked up the description, I found out I was right.
It seems I had kinda/sorta seen part of this movie being filmed.  I recalled going to Fremont Street sometime back to play some poker at Golden Nugget.  I had some trouble navigating walking to the Golden Nugget because part of Fremont Street was closed to pedestrians for some kind of movie filming.  When I got to the poker room I asked some of the players what was going on, and I was told they were filming a movie.  Bruce Willis and Vince Vaughn were in it they said, I don’t recall if they mentioned anyone else. Willis supposedly played a gambler on a hot streak, which explains why they would be filming in Vegas. One or two of the players claimed they had even seen Willis out on Fremont between takes.  When I left the game, the film crew was done and everyone was gone.  Oh well, I came close to seeing the movie being filmed, and seeing some famous Hollywood types.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I stored this information, and it clicked when I saw the film listed “on demand.”  Since I couldn’t find anything that appealed to me more, I went ahead and ordered it.  I mean, how bad could it be?  It had Bruce Willis in it, it was about Vegas, it was about gambling….and besides I’d been somewhat inconvenienced by its filming.  I figured I would give it a shot.
Now I should explain that you might not have heard of it because it hasn’t actually come out yet.  It’s one of those “on demand” movies that is actually available on pay-per-view before it hits the theaters.  I think the movie was released overseas earlier this year but hits theaters in the U.S. this week.  Yeah, I know that’s not a good sign.  They didn’t release The Avengers or Skyfall that way. But I went ahead and ordered it anyway, thinking that between Willis, Vegas, and gambling, it would at least hold my interest.
It did that, but not a whole lot more. The gambling in the picture is all sports and horserace betting.  Poker is mentioned briefly, but never seen.  Bruce Willis plays who a professional gambler named Dink who runs some sort of sports betting operation.  He has a huge office that is filled wall to wall with TV screens that carry every major sports event in the world, and feeds from racetracks around the country.  There are also betting lines all around the place.  It looks like a Casino sports book, except instead of comfy chairs for gamblers, there’s a few phones and a big desk and Dink’s employees are on the phone all the time making bets.
I’m not much of an expert on sports betting (I know some of my readers and fellow bloggers are).  I’ve made less than half a dozen (legitimate) sports bets in my time in Vegas.  So it really wasn’t obvious to me exactly how Dink made his money.  He made it clear that he was totally legit, so he was not a bookie.  He explained that he got busted as a bookie once and therefore everything he does now is legal.
So he can’t be taking bets from other people, since he’s not licensed to do that.  It may be that he just makes a tremendous amount of bets, and uses all that info coming in to get the best line.  I suspect that he may be intentionally manipulating the lines too by making huge bets that change the lines.  Although he’s in Vegas and can make all the bets he wants to there, he also places a lot of bets on the phone with offshore sportsbooks.
I only mention this confusion on my part because it distracted me somewhat trying to figure out exactly how Willis’s character operated.  I think it would have been a slightly better movie if they spent a few sentences explaining exactly how he operated.
Willis is not playing his action-hero, Diehard character.  He’s more of the lovable rogue, more of his character from TV’s Moonlighting.  But he is good; he’s almost always fun to watch.
But he’s not really the main character of the movie.  No, that would be a character played by British actress Rebecca Hall, who I was not familiar with before.  Probably few Americans are.  But she will become better known soon, as she has a major part in the upcoming Iron Man 3.
Hall plays the character of Beth—a stripper who doesn’t take her clothes off.  Yeah, that’s what I said.  OK, what she really is, when we meet her, is a “private dancer” working in Florida.  She’s one of those girls who shows up at a guy’s door to give him a “private dance” from an attractive woman.
Of course, I have never hired a woman to perform this service for me, but I’m pretty damn sure any guy who does is expecting the “dancer” to get completely naked, or at the very least, topless. I’m pretty sure that’s what the guy is paying for.  Yet at the beginning of the film, as they are establishing Beth’s character, we see two of her private dancing sessions.  In both cases, she is wearing a bra and panties the entire time.
So….a stripper who doesn’t take her clothes off.
OK, so you may think, well, they didn’t want to get an R-rating for this film.  No, the film is rated R for language.  The “f-word” is heard often and even the “c-word” makes an appearance.
Well, ok, so maybe they didn’t want to have any nudity in the movie for artistic reasons.  You know, director’s decision.
Except there are indeed bare breasts in this film.  Once in Vegas, Beth befriends two strippers. These strippers apparently do take their clothes off (although we never see them working).  But there is a scene where the two strippers are sunbathing topless on a rooftop and Beth joins them.  But unlike her two stripper friends (who presumably work in a Vegas strip club, tho we never see them in one), Beth keeps her top on.
OK, so the explanation is that the actress, Ms. Hall, refuses to do nudity on screen, right?
Nope.  A quick Google search revealed that she had done quite a bit of nudity (well, topless, at least) in both films and British TV.  She’s not a shy girl at all.
In fact, the only thing more puzzling than the nudity we don’t see is the nudity we do see.  The nudity in the scene with the two sunbathing strippers (and the covered former “private dancer”) is completely gratuitous and adds nothing to movie. The characters are relatively minor (for one, this is her only scene) and there is no reason for them to be topless, other than to appeal to prurient interests. The scene could have easily been easily shot with the ladies’ wearing their tops.  Or for that matter, it could have taken place at a Starbucks, or at a kitchen table. 
But it would have been perfectly logical to see Beth topless, when we actually see her on the job, as a “private dancer.”  By the way, when Beth confesses her past to Willis, she admits that in addition to working as private dancer, she had her own website that featured nude pictures of herself.  Making it even harder to believe that she didn’t get nekkid in her other job. 
And it is not implied that when she was a “private dancer” she performed, well “extra services” beyond just dancing.  After all, she didn’t even get naked.  But then, maybe she was not only a stripper who didn’t take her clothes off, but a hooker who didn’t take her clothes off, as well.  And by the way, I have a female friend who insists that there is absolutely no difference between a stripper and a hooker.  But I bet she thinks either way, they do usually take their clothes off.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the name of one of the two topless sunbathers (the one who appears in a few other scenes, and is of some importance to the film).  That’s because that, unlike Ms. Hall, she is someone you’ve very likely heard of, and even seen.  She is Laura Prepon, who starred in the sitcom That 70’s Show (the show that, for better or worse, introduced Austin Kutcher to the world), where, I’m led to believe, she developed quite a following.  So I think there may be some fans of hers who might be interested in seeing her bare breasts. I know you will find this hard to believe, but there are guys who really like to see attractive, female celebrities they’ve admired from afar with their clothes off.  I’m also fairly certain that this the very first time that Ms. Prepon has publically displayed her assets, making this film noteworthy for that, if nothing else.

So, if you’re scoring at home, Rebecca Hall, who has a long resume of film nudity, keeps her clothes on in this movie, and Laura Prepon, never before seen nude in front of a camera, does a totally gratuitous topless scene in a minor role.  And both of them play strippers.
By the way, if you’re wondering why I went on this long tangent on the appropriateness/lack of appropriateness of the skin in this film, well, it’s simple.  It seems that some of my readers have been complaining that too many of my recent posts have had too much serious discussion of poker, and not enough sleaze.  So I needed to add some sleaze to keep those readers happy.
Anyway, Beth decides that she wants to upgrade her life by leaving Florida and the private dancing biz and trying to become a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas.  Yeah, that’s what she wants to do.  But once in Vegas, she can’t get a waitress job.  So, the two (real) strippers she befriends send her to Dink and she is hired as a—well, I’m not sure what.  She places bets for him, both in person and on the phone, and is good with numbers.  Also, she is trustworthy, something very important to Dink.  Then it appears she becomes Dink’s good luck charm, as he goes on a hot streak after hiring her. 
And then of course, despite their age difference, Beth falls for Dink and vice versa.  This is a problem because Dink is married (apparently happily so) to a woman played by Catherine Zeta-Jones.  Now, I don’t know what they did to Zeta-Jones, or what happened to her, but I didn’t recognize her in the film.  She looks very different than I’ve ever seen her look before.  Weird.
Of course the romance doesn’t end well and that is the cause of much of the film’s conflict.  Eventually Beth leaves Dink’s employ and, having met a new friend who gets her to move to New York, she ends up working for Vince Vaughn, playing his usual shady character.  Unlike Dink, Vaughn’s character is into illegal bookmaking, and of course, several of the characters eventually run afoul of the law.
I guess what happens after that is supposed to be the point of the film.  Frankly, I’m not really sure what they were going for in this movie.  It’s not an action film.  It might be considered a comedy, but it wasn’t really funny.  I did chuckle a few times, but I wouldn’t watch it for the laughs.  I guess it is more a human interest drama, a character study of the growth of the character Beth.  She does grow as a person as the movie progresses.  It would seem that the point is that an ex-private dancer can become a…..well, that would spoil it, wouldn’t it?
I should point out that this film is supposedly a true story based on a book written by the character Beth.  Knowing that makes the movie a bit more inherently interesting, I think.
I will say that, despite some of the sleazy aspects of Vegas and gambling on display, I found most of the major characters likeable, making me want things to turn out well for them, and keeping me interested in their exploits.  So on that level the movie was successful.  Also, I enjoyed the Vegas and (hard to follow) gambling aspects of it, that kind of thing almost always appeals to me.
So, it was an OK movie, I wouldn’t say it was good.  I would only recommend it to people who like Vegas, or gambling, or Bruce Willis.  Perhaps all three would be best.  But at least for me, I don’t regret having rented it.
By the way, I never did notice anything in the movie that looked like it was film anywhere I had seen them filming.  Either I just didn’t notice it, or it was cut from the film.

((Edited to add:  In a comment below, the inimitable Mr. Poker Grump has pointed out that there's a poker connection with Ms. Prepon.  She appeared on a short lived poker show, and was actually one of the executive producers of the show.  See here.))


  1. Grump's Notes Version: I saw a so-so movie featuring Bruce Willis and boobs.

  2. BTW, you missed a poker connection that you could have made. Laura Prepon was one of the executive producers of a short-lived poker TV show.


    1. You see, Grump, there you were complaining that my post was too long, when clearly it was too short! I should have included that little tidbit in my post.

      Where where you when I needed you?

  3. It's prob a correct to assume that 95% of you readership admire BOOBS as well as you ,so let's seem copius amounts when available.

    Chester the Molester

  4. Replies
    1. Why am I not surprised by your preferences? :)