You might not recognise the name, but Francois Veber is one of the great comic talents of world cinema; a writer, playwright, director producer and more, Veber’s work has been reworked for several classic films including The Toy, Three Fugitives and The Birdcage, while talents like Billy Wilder and Ivan Reitman have adapted his French hits. The Valet was a substantial success back in 2006, and this remake for Hulu in the US and Disney internationally, is one of the better attempts to capture his wit and his humanity on film.
The set-up, as might be expected from Veber, is choice; Antonio (Eugenio Derbez) is a put upon valet, kept busy parking sports cars for the rich and famous. An accident after his shift is over propels him with unexpected velocity into the live of actress Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving) who is preparing for the premiere of her starring role in a glitzy biopic about Amelia Earhart. A household name, Olivia Allan is having an affair with a married billionaire, and a ruse is concocted to preserve the rich man’s anonymity; Allan must pretend to be having a relationship with the humble Antonio.
‘He’s not pretending to be someone he’s not’ is Olivia’s view of Antonio, and she’s both right and wrong; sure, Antonio is game for a laugh, with the prize being a cheque to pay off a debt for his ex-wife, but he’s also a genuine person who Olivia has much to learn from. And although Antonio and Olivia are not a couple, they do learn from each other in a way that transforms their lives, and the way that others see them.
Rob Greenberg and Bob Fisher’s screenplay is peppered with the kind of good lines we don’t get much of these days. ‘It’s like Shakespeare, we fall in love with the wrong people,’ says a character of a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but that comic confusion is where the truth resides. There’s updated references that land, skewering everything from TMZ to Minecraft, and the 2022 friendly subplots about a gay couple and gentrification hit home too; there’s a throwaway line about the paparazzi that feels profound- ‘They never have enough until they don’t want any’. It’s also smart when Olivia Allan reads a bad review from a female critic and comments; ‘I wonder how she’d feel hearing that HER sexuality seems forced’. Playing out like a reverse Notting Hill, The Valet is a heart-warming comedy about life, stardom and family; it’s an enjoyable rom-com that doesn’t disgrace the high standards of the film’s original creator.
The Valet is out now on Hulu, Disney + and elsewhere. Thanks to Hulu for access to this title.