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The Valet Review: Entertains Despite Its Flaws

Although Hulu’s ‘The Valet’ has been labeled as a romantic comedy, the plot lends itself to less positive labels, at least until the film’s climax. Don’t get me wrong: the humor is there, earnestly delivered and profoundly buried in practically every other scene, but there are moments when somberness and gravity take over, lifting the film to a higher level.

Richard Wong directs, having previously directed the 2006 musical ‘Colma: The Musical’ and the 2019 dramedy ‘Come As You Are.’ The English adaptation of the 2006 French film of the same name (‘La Doublure’) is titled ‘The Valet.’ It depicts an odd friendship between a big movie star and an ordinary man.

Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving) has paid a high price for her celebrity in the form of loneliness and worry. Her “friends” are her staff; she is estranged from her family. She’s having an affair with married millionaire real-estate developer Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield), whom she believes will never leave his wife Kathryn (Betsy Brandt) for her.

The paparazzi picture Olivia and Vincent together during a public argument. Olivia accurately thinks that the public reaction will be a nightmare, so she agrees to pretend to be in a relationship with Antonio (Eugenio Derbez), the parking valet who had just been in an accident and ended up in the same frame as Olivia and Vincent when the paparazzi took the shot.

Image Credit: Dan McFadden/Hulu

Despite their millions of differences, Olivia and Antonio build a sense of friendship as the film unfolds and they get to know each other. Meanwhile, Kathryn remains skeptical and hires a private investigator to uncover the truth, forcing Vincent and his lawyer to engage their own private investigator to guarantee Kathryn does not learn of their plans. Antonio’s family understandably finds it difficult to fathom the current change of events.

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The Valet depicts immigrant life mostly through the lens of Mexican culture. Antonio’s mother Cecilia (Carmen Salinas) and their Korean landlord Mr. Kim are important to the film’s most touching subplot. They don’t comprehend each other’s language, but it doesn’t stop them from enjoying a happy relationship.

As a disturbed screen queen, Weaving gives a good performance. Derbez is a well-known figure in the Mexican film business, particularly following the international success of his 2013 picture ‘Instructions Not Included.’ He plays Antonio by alternating between levity and melancholy.

But it is the late great Carmen Salinas who steals every scene she is in, in what has become her final project as an actor. Greenfield, on the other hand, is loud and exaggerated, as if he is the sole cast member who received a memo instructing him to repeatedly wink at the camera. While the rest of the actors is restrained, Greenfield appears to be constantly channeling Schmidt (his character from Fox’s ‘New Girl’) at his worst.

Image Credit: Dan McFadden/Hulu

Unfortunately, that is hardly the most serious flaw in ‘The Valet.’ Francis Veber, the famed comedy auteur, directed the original film in 2006. The English version lacks the delightful farce that pervades ‘La Doublure’ and every other Veber film. The overarching plot has been watered down and simplified, and ‘The Valet’ has lost a big part of its individuality as a result.

Even that would have been okay if the film had been consistent in its message. In the search of a happy conclusion, ‘The Valet’ trades away plot pieces that looked crucial until midway through its nearly two-hour length. It also does not allow its two major characters to finish their change, forcing them to make decisions that would certainly pleasure the audience but make little sense in terms of the plot.

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Despite this, it is apparent that ‘The Valet’ is a fun film. It tells a convincing — if chaotic — account. The film’s best moments are not when the humor is obvious, but when it is disguised among pain and the encounter with reality. ‘The Valet’ does not follow in the footsteps of ‘Notting Hill,’ ‘Maid in Manhattan,’ or even ‘She’s Out of My League,’ but forges its own way.

The Valet Review: Entertains Despite Its Flaws
The Valet Review: Entertains Despite Its Flaws
The Valet Review: Entertains Despite Its Flaws
The Valet Review: Entertains Despite Its Flaws
The Valet Review: Entertains Despite Its Flaws

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