The Valet (La doublure) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
May 9, 2012 by Dennis Amith
Francis Vebre’s 2006 film “The Valet” may be getting its American remake from the Farrelly Brothers, but for fans of Vebre’s work… this French comedy goes to show how Vebre is the “King of Farce”. Delightful, enjoyable and just so much fun… I don’t think I can ever grow tired of watching this film. “The Valet” is recommended!
© 2006 Gaumont, EVFE Films, Kairos and TF1 Films Production. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: The Valet (La doublure)
DURATION: 85 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: PG-13 (For Sexual Content and Language)
RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2007
Written and Directed by Francis Veber
Produced by Patrice Ledoux
Co-Produced by Francesco Pamphili
Associate Producer: Francis Veber
Original Muisc by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography by Robert Fraisse
Edited by Georges Klotz
Casting by Francoise Menidrey
Production Design by Dominique Andre
Art Direction by Benoit Bechet
Costume Design by Jacqueline Bouchard
Gad Elmaleh as Francois Pignon
Alice Taglioni as Elena
Daniel Auteuil as Levasseur
Kristin Scott Thomas as Christine
Richard Berry as Maitre Foix
Virginie Ledoyen as Emilie
Dany Boon as Andre
Michel Aumont as Le Medecin
Laurent Gamelon as Paul
PAtrick Mille as PAscal
Michele Garcia as Louise
Philippe Magnan as Berman
Karl Lagerfeld as himself
When paparazzi catch him with his supermodel mistress, billionaire CEO Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) devises a plan to convince his wife that the beautiful woman is actually dating lovelorn valet Francois (Gal Elmaleh). But Pierre’s clever wife Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas) cooks up a plan of her own. A hilarious farce written and directed by Francis Veber.
Francis Veber is one of the most well-known filmmakers and screenwriters in France. Best known for French films “Le Diner de Cons” (The Dinner Game), “Le Placard” (The Closet), “Les Fugitifs” (The Fugitives) and also a famous playwright, one can expect to come into a theater and know that with a Francis Veber film, you’re going to laugh and have a good time.
For American movie fans who may not be familiar with Veber’s French oeuvre, they may be familiar with American films which he wrote or co-wrote such as the Billy Wilder 1981 film “Buddy Buddy”, the Richard Pryor 1982 comedy “The Toy”, “Partners”, the 1996 film “The Birdcage”, the 1997 film “Father’s Day” or most recently, the 2010 American adaptation of “The Dinner Game” titled “Dinner for Schmucks”.
And in 2006, Veber wrote and directed the French comedy titled “La doublure” (The Valet) which was released on DVD the following year courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
“The Valet” begins with Francois Pignon (played by Gad Elmaleh), a man who wants to propose to his childhood friend Emilie (played by Virginie Ledoyen). The thing with Francois is that he’s an average guy but doesn’t think he’s that great of a person. He works as a valet, doesn’t really have much going on with his life and lives with another fellow valet employee named Richard (played by Dany Boon).
Unfortunately for Francois, the day he proposes, Emilie is not interested in being with Francois. Mainly because she is so busy after opening a bookstore and also for the fact that she has seen Francois more as a childhood friend and nothing more than that.
Dejected by the rejection of his proposal, it’s another sad day in the life of Francois.
Meanwhile, the wealthy millionaire Levasseur (played by Daniel Auteuil) has been receiving pressure from his mistress, supermodel Elena (played by Alice Taglioni). Married to Christine (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), a wealthy woman who literally owns 60% of Levasseur’s company, suffice to say that their relationship has always been distant and somewhat strained. But despite telling Elena that he would divorce his wife, Levasseur just doesn’t want to lose the financial power that he has when married to Christine.
But Elena has had enough and wants to break up with Levasseur. As the two walk on the street together, Francois is walking towards them and when a paparazzi takes a photo of both Levasseur and Elena, Francois happens to be right next to Elena and the three are featured on a tabloid.
The following day, Levasseur’s wife sees the article and he tries to pass it off as if the supermodel was dating the other guy in the picture. So, immediately Levasseur gets his attorney to save him. And sure enough, his lawyer comes up with a plan. To let the public think that Elena is in dating Francois.
So, immediately, the lawyer confronts Francois about the plan to pretend that he is dating and living together with Elena for one month and that he will be paid for it. And while Francois at first thinks its a Candid Camera show, he finds out the lawyer is in fact telling the truth. And Francois decides to accept it, as long as he can get the money needed to pay for Emilie’s book store, so she will marry him.
Meanwhile, Levasseur confronts Alice about the plan and she agrees, only if he deposits 20 million Euro’s to her account. He will receive his money back only if he goes through with his promise to divorce his wife within a month. Levasseur agrees and now both Francois and Elena pretend they are a couple.
But as the two try to pretend they are in love, Christine has her men spying on Francois and Elena to find out if they are actually a couple. Meanwhile, Emilie sees Francois and Elena at a restaurant and she immediately becomes jealous.
And as things become more complicated for both Francois and Elena, Francois wonders if this charade may have hurt his chances of being with Emelie forever.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“The Valet” is presented in 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and French 5.1 Dolby Digital with English subtitles. Video quality is good as one can expect from DVD, the film utilizes the surround channels for its music and ambiance but dialogue is clear and English subtitles were easy to read.
If anything, I can only hope that Sony Pictures Classics or another company considers “The Valet” (and other Veber films) for Blu-ray release in the U.S.
“The Valet” comes with the following special features:
- Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by writer/director Francis Veber. While an in-depth commentary, sometimes there are a number of long pauses during the commentary.
- The Making of The Valet – (45:25) Featuring the behind-the-scenes filming of “The Valet” with writer/director Francis Veber. Veber discusses the making of the film, casting and location. Also, featuring interviews with the cast of “The Valet”.
When it comes to Francis Veber films, he is possibly the king of farce. There are not many filmmakers/writers around today who has had the success of Veber for nearly six decades and has a body of work that extends from film to theater and has made quite an impact worldwide.
While Veber’s “The Dinner Game” and other works in the director/writer’s oeuvre tends to get a lot of notice, there is something about “La doublure” (The Valet) which I never grow tired of watching.
Once again the character of Francois Pignon (a recurring character in Veber’s films) makes its return but this time as a regular man just trying to live life as a valet. But what makes “The Valet” work is Veber’s mastering of farce and making things so believable to the audience. It’s so far out there that a super model and this normal man would get together but its the situations that bring them together and what they need to do to be seen together, making this film so delightful.
The characters for the film were well-written and performances were amazing. You expect Daniel Auteuil and Kristin Scott Thomas to deliver in their character roles, but it’s Gad Elmaleh and Alice Taglioni that shine. Gad who plays Francois Pignon is what I would call the “everyman” that many can sympathize with. A hardworking man that doesn’t have incredible looks, style or anything ambitious going on with life. He just works and hopes that his one true love, Emilie will say yes when he proposes.
But for Francois, he’s one of those guys who has not separate the concept between childhood/best friend and girlfriend. She is so busy with work that she never looked at him as husband material. And you believe it because of the way Francois lives his life.
And the same can be said with Levasseur, the wealthy CEO who stands to lose everything to his more powerful wife Christine. He stays in his marriage because of the power and prestige but he also wants to be with his beautiful super model Elena. We see these type of stories in the news and once again, it’s believable.
But when Levasseur gets caught with Elena by the paparazzi and Francois happens to be in the photo at that exact time, well…that is when the story becomes exciting as we see the tall, beautiful, sexy Elena encountering Francois at work. Everyone just watches with astonishment as we see the fake couple kiss each other in public. With a “Pretty Woman” style (thanks to the faux Roy Orbison riffs of the classic song), this mismatch of individuals is amazing farce and writer and director Francis Veber manages to escalate the situations whenever these two are alone.
And as the performances were solid, the casting of Alice Taglioni was a director’s dream. Prior to “The Valet”, Taglioni had only done small roles and in this film, not only did she look like a super model but she also could act. In many interviews, you could tell Veber felt fortunate that they found Alice for the role. I have to agree, she brought this charm and excitement to the film.
While the film was made in 2006, a lot has happened since this film’s release.
Veber has since gone on to follow-up with another film in 2008 featuring the recurring character name Francois Pignon titled “A Pain in the Ass” and his 1998 film “The Dinner Game” was remade in 2010 in the US starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd and titled “Dinner for Schmucks”. “The Valet” is going to be remade by the Farrelly Brothers.
Gad Elmaleh went to star in the films Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill” and did a voice acting role in Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin”. Alice Taglioni recently starred alongside Woody Allen in the film “Paris Manhattan” and starred in “The Prey” and “The Easy Way”. And both Daniel Aueuil and Kristin Scott Thomas have done many films in the last five years, too many too mention.
And as I wait for the remake of “The Valet”, I had another enjoyable evening of watching this delightful film once again.
An enjoyable and delightful French comedy worth watching, “La doublure” (The Valet) is recommended!
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