A breezy French comedy from director Francis Verber, "The Valet" focuses on François (Gad Elmaleh), the "valet" of the title, who spends his days parking luxury autos. Meanwhile, Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) is the billionare CEO of a company who scrambles for a story for his wife (Kristin Scott-Thomas) when he's photographed with his mistress, model Elena (Alice Taglioni). Given that she's the majority shareholder in his companies, if she were to catch him, he'd lose everything. He comes up with a tale that the model was actually with the other person who happened to be standing in the picture - Francois.
Pierre decides to track down the valet and pay him off to keep the supermodel with him for a few days and have the general public think that she's his girlfriend. Francois agrees, but Pierre's wife isn't so easily convinced, and she tries to track down the story herself. I liked that the Scott-Thomas character wasn't totally oblivious, and makes some crafty attempts of her own to find the truth.
So, the model and the valet launch into an elaborate act to protect the businessman, but the valent's payment for the deal is a very specific amount - one that surprises the businessman and his lawyer. It is just enough for him to cover the cost of the bookstore that the girl he's always loved (played by Virginie Leyoden, "The Beach" and, speaking of models, is also one herself) has just bought. She thinks that they're just friends, but when she sees Francois with Elena, she gets jealous.
The whole thing is admittedly pretty sitcom-ish, but it's handled with care. The characters are a bit more developed and less cliche than these kinds of light romantic comedies usually are and the movie is genuinely sweet without being overly sentimental. The picture is predictable, but we like these characters (at least the ones we're supposed to) and the story is engaging enough despite the fact that we know where it's headed. Additionally, at under 90 minutes, the picture's pacing feels just right. The performances are all enjoyable, as well - Taglioni's especially winning as the kind-hearted model and Auteuil is enjoyable as the "villain" of the picture.
Overall, I thought this was a charming little film. It's the kind of movie that I thought would surely be remade and, sure enough, it turns out that this appears to be the next movie from the Farrelly Brothers. While the Farrelly's "Kingpin" is one of my favorite comedies, I can't say they're the first ones I'd have thought of when remaking this romance.
VIDEO: "The Valet" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a pleasing presentation, with solid sharpness and detail - for the most part. The majority of the film looked crisp and well-defined, but a few scenes did appear a bit soft. Some slight edge enhancement was also visible, but not a major distraction. No artifacting, print flaws or other issues were spotted, and colors remained bright and nicely saturated.
SOUND: The film's French Dolby Digital 5.1 (w/English subtitles) soundtrack sounded perfectly crisp and clear. Given the material, the lack of much in the way of surround use at all is understandable.
EXTRAS: Director Francis Verber offers an audio commentary for the film. We also get a "making of" and trailers for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I thought this was a charming little film, with solid performances and a fine script. The DVD offers a couple of nice extras and very good audio/video quality. Recommended.
The Film B+