When Francois Pignon (Gad Elmaleh), a humble car valet at a posh Paris restaurant, is captured on camera by a paparazzo next to supermodel Elena (Alice Taglioni) and her married lover Pierre Levasseur (Daniel Auteuil) during a secret assignation, Pignon is persuaded to pretend it is he who is romancing Elena, not the tycoon whose wife Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas) is the major shareholder in Pierre's business empire. The plan is to save Pierre's marriage for good financial reasons, but it interrupts a possible romance between Pignon and his long time friend, Emilie (Virginie Ledoyen), who assumes that the supermodel has stolen Pignon's heart. Christine is not so easily tricked and she launches a plan to reveal the truth.
Review by Louise Keller:
Hilarious complications arise when the love lives of a rich man and a valet become inextricably intertwined. There is nothing like a Francis Veber comedy to lift the spirits and Veber is at it again, spinning an amusing and uplifting tale about love and duplicity. Following on from The Dinner Game, The Closet and Tais-Toi comes The Valet, love may be beautiful, but simple it is not. Especially when there is a supermodel mistress and a suspicious wife to juggle. Plus there is the added complication of the scandal-hungry media and avaricious lawyers.
Daniel Auteuil is in good form as the manipulating business tycoon Pierre Levasseur, who cannot contain his anger when his plan for damage control gets out of hand. Even though it is a situation of his own choosing, seething jealousy sets in when he sees the set-up photos of his mistress Elena (Alice Taglioni) in the arms of Gad Elmaleh's lovelorn valet Francois Pignon. The situation becomes more and more farcical, as Levasseur's canny wife Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas) gets involved as does Pignon's true love Emilie (Virginie Ledoyen), who is being wooed by a sleeze-bag of a mobile phone salesman (Patrick Mille).
Pignon is as lovable as a puppy as his fortunes change, and he embraces his ever-changing situation with the gorgeous, long-legged Elena (Alice Taglioni). The astonishment on the faces of his valet buddy (Dany Boon) and waiters at the plush restaurant where he works is palpable, and watch for the fashion parade scene in which Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld make an appearance. I chuckled in the bedroom scene when Pignon is shaking so badly with nerves that Elena asks if there is a subway nearby. Although it appears otherwise, it's the women who are the drivers; Scott Thomas (speaking perfect French) is excellent as the knowing wife, Taglioni lovely as the blonde model with heart and Ledoyen warm and appealing as Emilie.
Crisp one-liners fly between impossibly funny situations. There is never any doubt as to where the story is headed, but there is an awful lot of frivolity on the way. The Valet is light hearted fun, and while it may not have the bite of The Dinner Game, it will have you grinning from start to finish.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In The Valet (or The Stand-In if you translate the French title), French filmmaker Francis Veber reinvents classic comic concepts within a contemporary framework. Celebrity and fame versus privacy and sexual jealousy are the engines for this romantic comedy, with a top cast relishing the chance to play it a bit larger than life. The script is not quite as sharp and hilarious as The Dinner Game (the pinnacle of Veber's work to date) but it offers amusing scenarios. What are the valet's co-workers to think when they see the famous supermodel kiss Pignon (Gad Elmaleh) in public? His flatmate Richard (Dany Boon), who gets booted out to his drunkard mother's place to make way for Elena (Alice Taglioni), cannot cope with the idea of this regular guy in bed with a supermodel. And Pignon's friend, Emilie (Virginie Ledoyen), who has just rebuffed his proposal of marriage, is shaken by his newfound squeeze.
As Veber fans know, Pignon is the name of each of his central anti-hero characters; I like the idea of this, a sort of perennial fall guy, the ultimate source of comedy with a potentially tragic foundation. For Pignon, who is kept in the dark about the real reason for a mysterious offer of cash for him to pretend a romance with Elena, the novelty of having a gorgeous, leggy blonde bombshell around wears off when he realises that his heart aches for Emilie.
But Veber resolves the issues with a clever strategy: he relies on our humanity to respond to Pignon's genuine feelings and find ourselves rooting for him, while we smirk at Christine's plan to undo her cheating husband's scoundrel plans.
There is just one fashion show in the film, but it's a beauty and it's an opportunity to product place some Chanel, with Karl Lagerfeld larger than life as himself. Upbeat and undemanding, The Valet will park your car in just the right funny spot.
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FRANCIS VEBER INTERVIEW
VALET, THE (M)
CAST: Gad Elmaleh, Alice Taglioni, Daniel Auteuil, Kristin Scott Thomas, Richard Berry, Virginie Ledoyen, Dany Boon, Michel Jonasz, Michele Garcia, Karl Lagerfeld
PRODUCER: Patrice Ledoux
DIRECTOR: Francis Veber
SCRIPT: Francis Veber
EDITOR: George Klotz
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dominique Andre
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 21, 2006 (except WA and Tas); special advance screenings December 15, 16, 17, 2006