*A guest review today, from Nick Schager, of Slant Magazine
There's nothing new about the films of Francis Veber, director of The Dinner Game and The Closet. Decidedly old-school throwbacks to both classic Hollywood comedies of manners and bouncy French farces, the filmmaker's hits are pure superficiality, their intricate plot machinations and oversized performances containing barely a whiff of emotional or intellectual depth. Veber isn't about character development or thematic subtext; he's about light, frolicsome fun, the kind in which myriad strangers find themselves hopelessly embroiled in outrageous circumstances, and then stumble and bumble their way out of trouble and into love. With The Valet, he continues his career dedication to fanciful humor, spinning a tangled yarn about a restaurant valet, his small business-owning love interest, a corporate bigwig, his cold, greedy wife, and his supermodel lover, all of whom find their fates intertwined after a tabloid photographer takes an ill-advised picture.
The snapshot in question is of CEO Pierre Levasseur (Daniel Auteuil) and his gorgeous celebrity mistress Elena (Alice Taglioni), and it threatens to ruin Levasseur if it leads to divorce, as his wife Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas, speaking seamless French) is the majority shareholder in his companies. As a random passerby is also featured in the photo, Pierre claims that Elena was actually with this stranger, a cover story that forces Pierre to find the man and pay him to pose as Elena's lover for the paparazzi hordes. After an amazingly quick search, the innocent sap in question turns out to be François Pignon (Gad Elmaleh) – the name of most of Veber's naïve protagonists – a porter who lives with his clingy best friend Richard (Dany Boon) and who has recently had his marriage proposal rebuffed by lifelong love and deep-in-debt bookstore proprietor Emilie (Virginie Ledoyen), who is being aggressively pursued by a sleazy cell phone salesman (Patrick Mille).