A cute French farce, but is it worth the trip to the theater?
The Valet is a new French farce by the prolific French farceman himself, writer/director Francis Veber. I think if you're a Frenchie or a French film fanatic, that might mean something to you. As I'm not the former and only in the developing stages of the latter, I haven't much familiarity with his likely stature in the land of wine and cheese.
In any event, The Valet tells the story of François Pignon (Gad Elmaleh), a humble, average valet (which, interestingly, is actually called a "voiturier" in French) at a fancy Paris hotel restaurant in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. He's a little too dull for his girlfriend Émilie (played by The Beach's Virginie Ledoyen), who turns down his proposal of marriage. But when the Paris paparazzi get a picture of wealthy tycoon Pierre Levasseur (Daniel Auteuil) with his supermodel mistress Elena (Alice Taglioni), things might start turning his way.
You see, François is also in the picture, and Levasseur wants to claim that François is actually her boyfriend so as to avoid a very messy and expensive divorce that would otherwise ensue with his wife Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas). The next thing you know, the supermodel is moving in with François and he might have enough money to win back Émilie's heart.
Sound complicated and nutty? It is, but that's farce for you. It's also cute, breezy, and fun. François' life is filled with endearing, kooky characters that seem to be the staple of any French comedy. And the story moves along at a quick pace with funny, surprising jokes and enough characters attempting to deceive and plot against each other that it feels like a veritable Shakespearean comedy.
Alice Taglioni (The Pink Panther) is certainly understandable casting as the top model girlfriend because she is gorgeous, and Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, The Horse Whisperer) is surprisingly adept at French (who knew?). Francophiles might recognize the amusing Daniel Auteuil from Caché or The Closet, and the soulful-eyed Gad Elmaleh is the perfect everyman underdog. But my favorite is actually his friend and fellow valet Richard (played by Danny Boon), who is nearly consumed with jealousy when his friend's life suddenly becomes so much better than his own.
While The Valet is enjoyable, it isn't very filling. Things wrap up kind of suddenly, making for a somewhat abrupt ending. And after all that effort for the madcap antics, you need to feel it building up a little, you know?
Overall, if you're big into French flicks, it might be fun, but take it from me - there are bigger and better things on the horizon.