July 12, 2007

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The Valet (PG-13)
A valet improves his fortunes by becoming temporary boyfriend to a supermodel in The Valet, a cute French farce.

Francois Pignon (Gad Elmaleh) drives sleek, expensive cars ó different ones every day. And then he parks them and hands the keys to their owners, the customers at a chic Paris restaurant. His valet status doesnít trouble him, though. He has an apartment and a wedding ring and he plans to propose to his longtime sweetheart Emilie (Virginie Ledoyen). Perhaps itís because the ring is small or perhaps itís because Francois shares his shabby apartment with fellow valet Richard (Dany Boon), but Emilie turns down Francoisí proposal. She doesnít have time for romance, she says, having just purchased a bookstore.

Francois, crushed, walks down the street, not even really noticing that blonde bombshell supermodel Elena (Alice Taglioni) and her wealthy businessman boyfriend Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) are having a fight. Nor does he notice the paparazzi who takes a photo of the couple.

Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas), Mrs. Wealthy Businessman, does notice the photo when it winds up in a tabloid. No, my dear, I wasnít with that girl, I donít know who she is, Pierre swears to the wife who owns 60 percent of the company he runs. She doesnít believe him so, in an attempt to save his marriage (or, really, his finances), Pierre has his lawyer track down Francois (who was also in the photo, walking near Elena) and offer him a deal: live with Elena and pretend to be her boyfriend until Christine is convinced Elena is not Pierreís mistress and Pierre will pay Francois whatever he wants. Francois asks for the rather measly sum that is the balance of Emilieís mortgage on her bookstore. Elena asks for considerably more as insurance that Pierre will eventually fulfill his promise to divorce Christine and marry her.

Though some men ó Richard, for example ó would be dazzled by living with a supermodel, Francois is rather annoyed by it. He wants Emilie back and fears Elena is hurting his chances. Naturally, Elena finds his lack of bedazzlement endearing and the two begin a tentative friendship.

The Valet has a wacky sitcom feel but with actual humor and charm that many a supposedly wacky sitcom lacks. The characters arenít exactly onions of emotion and motivation but they have more than one dimension and the story gives us actual chemistry between people and well executed if predictable twists in addition to hijinks. In terms of comedies of relationship errors, The Valet is light but far better all around than big Hollywood, License To Wed-like attempts at the same tone. B-

Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. Written and directed by Francis Veber, The Valet (released in France as La Doublure) is an hour and 25 minutes long and is distributed in limited release by Sony Pictures. The Valet just ended its run at Wilton Town Hall Theatre on Thursday, July 12, and is available on DVD.