'The Valet' offers more than a laugh
By Martha K. Baker
Sometimes, you just have to take a break from Meaningful Films. You want to stop thinking, to laugh and mentally meander. So you select a movie that looks like film fluff. You pick "The Valet" and sit back to be brainlessly entertained. And, yet, even "The Valet" makes a solid point throughout. It's about class.
There's a reason for that. But, first, a plot line: a glamor puss, a Hollywood star, is having an affair with an oily married man. She is caught by the paparazzi arguing with him at a film opening. To cover his tuxedo'd heinie, he insists that she's really with the man in the back of the photo, the valet ready to park her car.
To support his gaslit lie, he hires a detective to find the valet and pay him to escort the starlet in order for people to believe the lie. What happens is predictable: she agrees to go on a date with the man. She finds out that he is kind and decent, that he loves his mother with whom he lives, and his son, who lives with his ex-. She finds that he is all things good, unlike her smarmy lover. No surprises there.
Admirably, the cast, under the direction of Richard Wong, carries off the stereotypes. Samara Weaving plays the Spandexed starlet, Olivia. Observe well Weaving's grace notes, such as Olivia's snarl as she witnesses her lover's wife insist to the press that her husband is "so romantic." Eugenio Derbez, who holds a degree from the Mexican Institute of Cinematography, plays Antonio. Derbez is a Mexican Roberto Benigni, his face mobile in every crease, pore, and follicle. Max Greenfield from "New Girl" slithers greasily through his part as the lover. Carmen Salinas plays Antonio's sexy mama.
Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg based their screenplay on Francis Veber's 1996 film, "The Birdcage," based on the 1978 film, "La Cage aux Folles." That provenance explains the undercurrent of class references in "The Valet." The scriptwriters included dandy subplots about paparazzi and about developers. So, like "The Birdcage," "The Valet" is not all frills and frippery. The agenda does not turn the film into a lecture, but it adds dimension.
"The Valet" is predictable, delightful, and political, sweet and silly in just the right proportions.