The Valet is the sort of pleasant and entirely average romantic comedy that disappears into the digital ether these days. It moves at a decent clip. The characters are lovable, with flaws that only make them more so. No surprises are in store besides the jokes, which generally land. I enjoyed it; it filled my evening and my heart a little bit, too.
Antonio (Eugenio Derbez) is a valet in Los Angeles, catering to rich and wealthy clients who hand him their keys and never give him a second glance. Antonio’s mother had him at 16 on their counter at home; his father was killed breaking up a fight soon afterward. He and his mother live in a small Mexican neighborhood of Los Angeles full of extended family and friends. He’s always been too busy to do anything more than the jobs right in front of him to support his family. No time for school, no time for training. It’s a good life, though. Or it was, before his ex-wife, Isabel (Marisol Nichols), left him. Nonetheless, Antonio is upbeat and kind to a fault.
Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving) lives a a different type of lifestyle. She’s a megastar who runs her own production company, popping pills to keep herself going through the day. Her newest film, a biography of Amelia Earhart, has garnered awards buzz. The paparazzi follow her day and night. Constant attention makes it hard to have any kind of meaningful relationship, which is why she’s secretly shacking up with Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield), a billionaire businessman who happens to be planning a gentrification of Antonio’s neighborhood. Royce is married to Kathryn (Betsy Brandt), who is the real financial power behind his ambitions and suspects her husband is cheating on her. Olivia just needs someone to listen to her, to make her feel truly noticed.
A chance encounter outside the hotel where Olivia and Vincent conduct their illicit affair results in the paparazzi snapping photos of the two of them together — bad news for her career and his plans. Fortunately, Antonio was there, too, having just crashed his bike. The three hatch a plan to make the world at large think Olivia is dating Antonio, at least long enough to keep Kathryn off their scent. At first Antonio thinks it’s nothing, but the amount of money they offer him, and the chance to make the ex he still loves a little jealous? How could he say no?
The story that ensues is fairly by the books. The two “lovers” educate one another on their respective lifestyles and they learn new lessons about life and friendship. Antonio is poor but realistic about life. He helps Olivia realize the power of family and true friendship. Olivia is rich and insulated from human truths but helps Antonio move on from things he can’t change.
Derbez is lovely as Antonio, playing a humble and sweet character without making him feel like a jerk — which is harder than it should be. Weaving manages to make Olivia both likable despite being incredibly frustrating, which is also a feat. It’s a pleasure watching the two of them go through the motions of this type of character dynamic, particularly because the story (based on the French film of the same name) never tries to make the two leads fall in any sort of love. Their friendship is fun to watch develop.
Again: It’s pleasant. It’s a nice time, and it seems a shame it is destined for relative obscurity beneath banner ads and the gentle recommendations of AI algorithms.