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aka - Doublure, La
France 2006
Directed by
Francis Veber
83 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars

The Valet

Synopsis: Pierre Levasseur (Daniel Auteuil) is in a bit of a fix. He has been snapped by the paparazzi with his supermodel mistress Elena (Alice Taglioni) and fears divorce proceedings from his wealthy wife, Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas). By chance a passer by, parking valet, Francois Pignon (Gad Elmaleh,) is also in the photo, so Pierre concocts a crazy story that Elena is actually Pignon’s girlfriend, entailing Elena moving into Pignon’s dumpy little apartment, while a flurry of publicity around the couple is organised.

The French generally do lightweight farce well, and The Valet is no exception with Veber being the pre-eminent exponent. I seldom find any of them laugh-out-loud stuff, but they all give me a good continuous chuckle, as does this one. Many of the situations are just plain silly, for example the doctor, played by Michel Aumont (a veteran of more than 100 French films!), always ends up being tended to by his patients because he is himself ailing. In fact the basic main premise is totally incredible – and yet Veber has a way of making it work. This is in part due to the tight scripting – with such a short running time the situations come thick and fast, with convolutions piling up one on top of the other. The opening scene sets the mood well -  two seemingly well-heeled guys side by side in fancy cars turn out to be valets, Francois and his flatmate Richard (Dany Boon). Virginie Ledoyen is thrown into the mix as the doctor’s daughter Emilie, who is sweet on Pignon, the set-up with Elena of course only further complicating that relationship.

The other important factor in a comedy such as this is, of course, the choice of casting. Auteuil has long shown his talent for serious drama but he’s also highly adept at comedy as he proved in The Closet (2001) which Veber also directed. Here he is terrific as the smarmy CEO of a company, who obviously thinks that money, even if it is his wife’s, will get him whatever he wants.  Scott Thomas shows her delicious comedic sense as the wife who decides to be especially mischievous in retaliation for her husband’s infidelity.  Also very funny is Patrick Mille as Pascal, the unctuous mobile phone salesman who also has the hots for Emilie.

The pace moves along well and there are plenty of humorous digs at the world of fashion, celebrity and our tendency to judge people by their appearance. There’s also a really fun final scene, though of course I’ll keep that under wraps! 

There’s not a lot of in-depth analysis required for The Valet – you’ll either like it or you won’t, but for fans of the genre it will certainly be a pleasant diversion. 

 

 

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