Remakes of foreign language films are nothing new in Hollywood, with the immortal question of “Why?” always follows immediately after. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Untouchable, The Departed, Vanilla Sky are just some of the most recent revamps that the City of Stars has unleashed on the world but, despite some exceptions to the rule, just exactly who they are being made for when the original is so good – don’t be scared of subtitles, people – is still something unfathomable. Slightly lesser known in this category is The Valet, a 2006 French comedy that was a hit on both sides of the Pond, that has known be given a 2022 make-over to encompass all of the shenanigans that go on in the land of films but, after watching it, you’ll be reverting to that much-asked question, despite its charms.
Olivia Allen (Samara Weaving) is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. With countless successes behind her – in the film and business worlds – she is gunning for awards glory with her new film, a biopic of Amelia Earhart, one she hopes will propel her into the stratosphere. However, she holds a secret: she is having a sordid affair with a well-respected businessman Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield), and their midnight rendezvous are about to be exposed to the world – and Vincent’s wife – until they come up with a cunning plan involving a local LA valet (Eugenio Derbez) who inadvertently crashes into them one night on The Strip. Box office gold or catastrophic flop?
So far, so Notting Hill and, for reasons that will be obvious to many, it almost looks like that is the film it is remaking as the hallmarks are all there: big-time movie star, a love story with a “nobody”, the intrusion of the paparazzi and the scandals therein and much more in-between. It’s almost identical but despite it ticking many of the same boxes, The Valet lacks the charm, hubris, and soaring optimism of Richard Curtis’ delightful 1990s classic though it tries hard to do all of those things and break out of the box it will no doubt be put in by many.
Even standing on its own two feet, though, this one lacks many basics to make a successful comedy, and its premise and story wear thin very quickly with its two-hour runtime its biggest hindrance. Everything feels bloated and overwrought, stuffed with too many things that neither work to the film’s advantage nor its winning leads, who wrestle with the sporadic charm and humour for most of the duration while writers Rob Greenberg and Bob Fisher try valiantly to blend the comedy with the most biting, satirical melodies pertaining to race, culture, social and economical status, as well as taking pot-shots at the lunacy that encapsulates Hollywood and its otherworldly façade, they rarely find a rhythm that satisfies any of them.
Thankfully, Derbez and Weaving and both brilliant performers and despite the problems with the material on-screen, you can see why they were drawn to such a story. Derbez’s career has been a mixed bag since hitting big in US – for every Overboard and How To Be A Latin Lover there’s CODA or Dora and the Lost City of Gold (the latter a hugely underrated gem) – and The Valet sits somewhere in the middle, allowing him to showcase his effervescent, charming side despite the film’s shortcomings. Weaving, however, is superb in everything she does, and here is no different, she brilliantly nails the Hollywood diva melodies while bringing some much-needed pathos and grace. If she isn’t someone who is yet on your radar, she should be, especially with turns in Damien Chazelle’s Babylon and the upcoming Chevalier biopic on the horizon. Truly, she is the shiny star in this otherwise messy, clumsy yet sporadically entertaining romp.
Comedy | 2022 | Hulu, Disney+, Lionsgate | Dir: Richard Wong | Samara Weaving, Eugenio Derbez, Max Greenfield, Betsy Brandt, Marisol Nichols