The Valet, 2022.
Directed by Richard Wong.
Starring Eugenio Derbez, Samara Weaving, Ravi Patel, Amaury Nolasco, John Pirruccello, Max Greenfield, Betsy Brandt, Marisol Nichols, Carmen Salinas, Carlos Santos, Armando Hernández, Tiana Okoye, Diany Rodriguez, Joshua Vasquez, Alex Fernandez, Noemi Gonzalez, Milena Rivero, Michael Mourra, Noah Ayden Hernandez, Dariana Alvarez, Marcenae Lynette, Katie Carpenter, Wilmer Calderon, Mike Bash, and Lunay.
A movie star enlists a parking valet at a Beverly Hills restaurant to pose as her lover to cover for her relationship with a married man.
Apparently, Eugenio Derbez loves playing doormats. Director Richard Wong’s The Valet may be a remake of a French film, but it feels like watching 2018’s Overboard (which was also a remake), minus the amnesia. Antonio (Eugenio Derbez) is a loving father, recently left by the love of his life. For whatever reason, Antonio simply doesn’t have much drive in life, frequently content to settle for far less than he deserves (even when the deception plot comes into play higher at the hands of the billionaire for a sum of his choosing, he only asks for $12,000). There’s also nothing necessarily wrong with this; Antonio is often quite sympathetic, especially when timid, bouncing around in a Hollywood world his small-town mind doesn’t understand, able to land bits and pieces of broad situational humor.
Antonio also has the titular mundane job of valet parking, where no one looks you in the eyes, and everyone treats you like you are invisible. There is also something here to pull from, given the Latin American background of Antonio and his co-workers, but the farthest The Valet gets saying anything remotely political is a softball gentrification framing device. Aside from cuisines, it’s shocking and disappointing how disinterested the movie explores culture (more a fault of the script, not the direction), doubly so when you consider Antonio’s mother dating their Korean landlord.
The crux of The Valet centers on Antonio’s involvement with hotshot actress Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving). She happens to be sleeping with married billionaire Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield), all-around vain and estranged from her family. One night while the paparazzi are snooping around, the parties more or less bump into each other, ending up in the same photograph blowing up social media and the private life of Vincent. Rather than come clean about his adultery, he works Olivia and Antonio into putting on a fake relationship for the press so that his wife Kathryn (Betsy Brandt) will cease suspicion of unfaithfulness. The latter could use some money, and the former can’t have her public image smeared (there are some early lines from Olivia talking about the pressures of women in Hollywood to be scandal free, which would offer some fascinating character work, but that also goes nowhere).
Instead, The Valet is content autopiloting through standard sequences of opposites entering into their different, respective worlds, finding some common ground. The issue is that much like Overboard, The Valet also doesn’t mind reveling in the cruelty of its premise and the shallowness of someone like Olivia. Even when the movie gets around to her inevitable redemption arc, it doesn’t feel earned (scenes with the adulterer’s wife are too friendly and clean). Antonio’s buddies joke around wondering how he attracted a Hollywood star at work, which is mildly amusing. The entire situation also makes his former partner wonder if she made a mistake dumping him, which has him excited about possibly getting back together.
There’s just not enough characterization for either Antonio or Olivia, which is crucial considering the film is semi-serious and rarely funny. Eugenio Derbez is incredibly sweet-natured and adorable in his shyness, and it’s easy to want him to stop getting used, but it’s not enough to make this story work. The unity of his large family is another positive here, but even that takes some random turns (although it could be because one of the cast members died before the movie was released). Regardless, the third act is messy, where almost nothing is believable.
For as cliché as the whole endeavor is, it should be said that Richard Wong (primarily is cinematographer although he does have other directorial efforts under his belt) stages the occasional compelling shot (he especially makes use of billboards depicting Olivia juxtaposed with the character in her most vulnerable, soul-searching moments). However, The Valet‘s script from Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg (not only two of the whitest sounding names imaginable, which would explain the lack of cultural specificity and authenticity, but they are also responsible for Overboard) is formulaic and empty. The ensemble is decent; they just have nothing to work with.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com