May 19, 2022

“The Valet” Proves the Traditional Rom-Com Still Lives (Review)

If you are a regular watcher of movies, you’ve undoubtedly seen your fair share of romantic comedies. After a while, you will start to pick up the tropes and typical story structure, and it becomes easier and easier to predict what will happen in any given movie. Sometimes, that can make rom-coms a chore, but in the case of The Valet, a remake of a French film of the same name, it actually makes the experience better.

Image courtesy of Hulu

Eugenio Derbez, best known to me as the music teacher from this year’s best picture winner, CODA, plays Antonio, a valet who gets roped into a Hollywood scandal by unfortunate circumstance: he crashes his bike into the car of movie star Olivia Allan (Ready or Not’s Samara Weaving), just as the paparazzi photograph her with the married man that she is having an affair with. Played by New Girl's Max Greenfield, the married man is a senator, or a councilman, or a realtor — I honestly couldn’t tell you which one — but to cover up the affair, he pays Antonio to step into the public eye and pretend to be Olivia’s boyfriend.

It has all the markings of a perfect rom-com: two characters stuck together through an unlikely situation; extraneous family drama; and a different culture for the main American white person to immerse themselves in. Though there are a few surprises, it plays out exactly as you might expect, with little deviation from the formula we all know so well.

Image courtesy of Hulu

What I appreciate about The Valet (that was recently ignored in Netflix’s Senior Year) is that it’s actually interested in elaborating on the themes it introduces. As a valet, Antonio tends to feel invisible, and as a famous actress, Olivia sometimes wishes she could be invisible. Approaching the same subject from two opposing viewpoints is an interesting way to explore it, and though it doesn’t break any new ground, there are some neat parallels and through-lines between the film’s character stories about unique and unexpected connections. Sometimes I feel like an English teacher, examining the themes and motifs in everything I watch, but since I see so many movies, I’ve found that it helps in making each experience distinct and in drawing comparisons between genres.

The Valet is not the rom-com I expected it to be. With Samara Weaving essentially playing an exaggerated version of herself (á la This is the End, minus the apocalypse), the movie becomes critical of the public personas some celebrities assume in order to create a “perfect” image of themselves. In that way, Weaving’s character, Olivia Allan, is an amalgamation of any famous person who finds themselves embroiled in a scandal — perhaps a good person at heart, but doing what they have to do to make the best of a bad situation. Again, there aren’t many revelations here, but the effort is enough to be admirable. It’s done in a way that doesn’t descend into self-parody, which is what most movies would do with this storyline.

Image courtesy of Hulu

Though at points it struggles not to drown from cuteness, The Valet is a delightful, harmless rom-com that doesn’t need to subvert the typical formula — this is proof that, sometimes, it works just fine as is.

The Valet is streaming on Hulu tomorrow.

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