The Valet sounds too formulaic even by romantic comedy standards. Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving) is one of the most famous actors in the world. When paparazzi get a picture of here with her married billionaire lover Vincent (Max Greenfield), it sounds like a PR disaster. Thankfully, hard working Antonio (Eugenio Derbez) was also caught in the photos. When he is approached to pose as Olivia’s boyfriend, he accepts. But once they get to know each other, the cover up becomes something more.
Since it is obvious what direction things are going, the film gets off to a slow start. Antonio is a good guy who is down on his luck, while Olivia is the movie star who is out of his league. The only way the two would ever get together would be because of an over the top situation that only a rom-com would be able to provide.
Once the plot kicks in, The Valet becomes a much better movie. It may sound formulaic, but the story is constantly subverting any expectations audiences may have. It has the tropes that any good rom-com should have, but it never relies on them. The film is so different that it can be considered a different genre.
If anything, it is closer to a character study. Olivia is the ultra famous celebrity who does not talk to her family and has no real friends. Yes, there is a heavy dose of poor little rich girl, but The Valet wisely points this out. Olivia is also not asking for anyone’s pity or sympathy. She spends much of the time oblivious to her own problems. The strong writing makes it easy for audiences to get behind her.
Antonio’s change is much more gradual. He remains the same person until something sets him off. By the end, he is working on himself. He is the perfect contrast to Olivia. Though the live entirely differently lives, they both have similar problems. It is cliché, but it also makes complete sense to watch their relationship evolve.
Strong characters are a running theme of The Valet. These types of movies tend to work with caricatures. Everyone is over the top and the cast will play to the actors. That is not the case here as everyone is well written. Some are more layered than others, but each one leaves some sort of impression. This is especially important since family is such an integral part.
The performances are also top notch. Weaving gets to show off her comedic chops while Derbez is excellent as the innocent nice guy. The two also have great chemistry. The supporting cast are more than just background characters and give the world of The Valet an authentic feel.
It is interesting to see the way race is treated. The diverse cast includes Latinx and Korean people. While it is not subtle (Olivia is repeatedly called “white girl”), it is not in a way that overshadows the story The Valet is trying to tell. This does not mean it ignores the problems with race relations; on the contrary, the film tackles the issue head on. Managing to tell a funny and heartwarming story while also handling serious issues is another example of the deft writing.
The Valet does run a little long and everything gets tied up a little too nicely at the end, but it is a fun watch. There are some truly heartfelt moments in the film and it is also filled with laugh out loud moments. It may sound like just another romantic comedy, but it succeeds by striking out on its own.
The Valet premieres on Hulu May 20
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