MMost of all, I love “The Valet” for what it doesn’t do.
This avoids cheap jokes and lazy signifiers. He refuses to follow unlikely narrative paths to up the ante. He refuses to paint his figures in the more palatable black and white, finding solace in shades of gray.
Not bad for a modern romantic comedy.
The setup is nothing new – an unlikely scenario leading to romantic complications. Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving) is a rising movie star whose meteoric success is undermined by an unhappy love affair. Her lover (Max Greenfield) is a married, high profile property developer; When photos of the couple arguing outside a fancy hotel appear in the tabloids, the two think they’re broke.
Do not worry; a wacky scheme is brewing. The photos also feature the face of a mild-mannered valet, Antonio (Eugenio Derbez), who got caught in the middle of the lovers’ quarrel. It’s an outing: they just need to pretend that Olivia and Antonio, despite appearances, are the real couple.
The clever, fast-paced script (by Rob Greenberg and Bob Fisher, based on an earlier French film of the same name) has plenty of tropes to play with: fish out of water, will-they-won’t , the wealthy person learning life lessons. Despite these fairly routine themes, “The Valet” never takes the easy road, remaining surprisingly grounded and plausible.
Derbez is charming and funny, but Weaving — still a vastly underrated and underutilized actress — is the movie’s MVP. She knows that this character’s sympathy is on the razor’s edge. Too fancy and mean and she won’t be sympathetic; too nice and warm and it won’t be realistic. (It was one of the many pitfalls of a similar release from earlier this year, “Marry Me,” in which Jennifer Lopez was far too famous to be so patient.) Weaving nails is hard work.
I also like the ending, for reasons I won’t go into here. Suffice to say that “The Valet” had to avoid one last pitfall to earn my admiration, and he got around it perfectly. It’s not an all-time classic, but it’s an easy delight.
My rating: 7/10
“The Valet” is now streaming on Hulu.