DIRECTOR: Richard Wong

CAST: Eugenio Derbez, Samara Weaving, Ravi Patel, Amaury Nolasco, John Pirruccello, Max Greenfield, Betsy Brandt, Marisol Nichols, Carmen Salinas, Noemi Gonzalez, Tiana Okoye, Diany Rodriguez, Armando Hernández, Carlos Santos, Milena Rivero, Ji Yong Lee

RUNNING TIME: 124 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12A

BASICALLY…: A mild-mannered valet (Derbez) poses as the boyfriend of a Hollywood actress (Weaving)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Director Richard Wong appears to have a strong knack for remaking European hits into English-language crowd-pleasers, with the impressive 2020 remake of Belgian hit Come As You Are, and now The Valet which takes cues from the 2006 French film of the same name. Just as he did with his previous film, he manages to find a strong sense of heart and light humour that subverts formula and digs a little deeper into seemingly one-dimensional archetypes, and while this one is perhaps a bit more standardized than Come As You Are, The Valet is still a rather decent surprise.

Set in Hollywood, we follow Antonio (Eugenio Derbez) who works as a valet in Beverly Hills, and who accidentally becomes snapped in the same paparazzi picture as movie star Olivia Allan (Weaving), and married, arrogant billionaire Vincent (Max Greenfield) with whom she is having a secret affair. With Olivia desperate to avoid a PR crisis with her upcoming movie about Amelia Earhart, and Vincent eager to keep his reputation and wife Kathryn (Betsy Brandt) intact, Antonio is hired to publicly pose as Olivia’s new lover. At first, the ruse works, pleasing both the photographers and Kathryn, but soon the deception becomes complicated by the genuine friendship that blossoms between Antonio and Olivia.

The set-up is certainly familiar rom-com territory, but don’t jump to conclusions just yet, as the script – by Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg – doesn’t exactly follow the rulebook to the letter. Granted, there’s still a lot of it that feels comfortably familiar, but as with even the most formulaic rom-coms it’s all in the execution, and director Wong is quite good at allowing his characters enough breathing space to actually feel like fleshed-out characters. Antonio, played with wonderful charm by Eugenio Derbez, goes through the majority of the movie just being a good person, the kind of protagonist who feels genuine and not artificially constructed by writers who desperately want you to like this guy; you feel his discomfort at having to be around shouting photographers and awkwardly answer questions by reporters, all while trying to provide for a family he clearly cares for with all his heart. He has nice chemistry with people he acts opposite, who also have good character moments that prevent them from falling into easy stereotypes, from Samara Weaving who does solid work as the initially shallow star he must pose with, to Marisol Nichols as his ex-wife who he’s trying to win back. The movie even gives some nice depth to characters who would usually just be there for some easy comic relief, like a couple of rival PIs (one of whom is played by Ravi Patel, a star of Wong’s previous film Come As You Are) who actually share a rather wholesome arc together.

The way in which the traditional rom-com tropes are alternated also make this a much more engaging watch, because there are parts to this movie where you genuinely don’t know where it’s going to go, even though you’re all but certain you’ve seen some of these subversive methods done before. Rather than going the easier “love conquers all” route, it establishes early on that Antonio and Olivia are not meant for each other – he even comments that he’s old enough to be her father – while the other romantic relationships, including one with Antonio’s mother (Carmen Salinas, who passed away late last year) and her Korean landlord (Ji Yong Lee), are given real natural growth to ascend beyond being a mere sub-plot that’s just there for us to laugh at old people wanting to have sex. It’s genuinely touching stuff, because it’s not exactly doing things as is traditionally expected, and therefore makes things a lot more interesting to watch than just the vanilla romantic arc.

It’s not a perfect movie, though; at two hours, it goes on for a little longer than necessary, introducing heavy themes like gentrification which feel crowbarred in to an already overstuffed narrative, and could easily have been removed from the movie as it adds very little to the main dynamic. Also, as much fun as Max Greenfield is having being the most evil human alive in this movie, his character is very one-note, something that stands out when a lot of other characters, even his on-screen wife Betsy Brandt, are given a lot more opportunities to shine beyond their mere genre stereotypes. Fans of the actor will certainly get a kick out of how absurdly evil his character is, but don’t expect as much depth as other potentially one-note characters in this movie.

Aside from that, The Valet is a pleasant surprise. Filled with some genuine charm and very likeable characters, it’s a rom-com that stands out with how it doesn’t follow all the rules, but leaves enough in place for genre fans to consider this a wholly decent, if imperfect, alternative to the familiar.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Valet is a sweet surprise which neatly avoids a good proportion of familiar rom-com conventions and rests entirely on the charm and likeability of its actors, including lead Eugenio Derbez who plays a guy that you’re absolutely rooting for the whole way through.

The Valet is now available to stream on Disney+ Star

Did you like this review? Want to know when the next one comes out?

Sign up to our e-mail service today, and get our latest reviews and previews sent straight to your inbox!