‘The Valet’: Eugenio Derbez and Samara Weaving Are Delightful as Fake Couple in Reimagined Rom-Com

Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez, who previously won over American audiences as a music teacher in “CODA” and a playboy kidnapped by Anna Faris in “Overboard,” finds himself involved in another fake coupling in delightful romantic comedy “The Valet,” a reimagining of Francis Veber’s 2006 French farce, “La Doublure.” Derbez brings his usual warmth and humor to the title character, Antonio Flores, a valet at a Beverly Hills restaurant who is hired to pretend to be the boyfriend of a glamorous Hollywood actress, Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving), in an attempt to cover up her affair with a married man, billionaire developer Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield playing against type).

Antonio, a middle-aged father, isn’t randomly selected to be in a contrived romance with a twentysomething starlet. He happens to be at the wrong (or right, depending how you look at it) place at the exact moment Olivia is caught quarreling in the street with Vincent. Having just discovered that his estranged wife, Isabel (Marisol Nichols), is seeing someone else, Antonio becomes distracted while riding his bike, hits a parked car and ends up landing by the unhappy couple. A paparazzo snaps a photo, and after it goes public the next day, Vincent, fearful that his wealthy wife, Kathryn (Betsy Brandt), will leave him, goes along with his lawyer Daniel’s (Alex Fernandez) plan to hire Antonio to pretend to date Olivia. Olivia, fearful that negative publicity could tank her upcoming movie, cooperates. 

Antonio, we come to learn, is Olivia’s opposite in a lot of ways, and not just because of their dramatically different jobs. She is virtually alone, having sued her mother for stealing her money, and her only source of support is Amanda (Tiana Okoye), her overworked assistant. Antonio, meanwhile, has a lot of people depending on him, including his teen son Marco (Joshua Vasquez), his sister, Clara (Noemi Gonzalez), whom he put through college, and his mother Cecilia (hilarious Mexican comedic actress Carmen Salinas in her last role), who immigrated from Mexico with two small children after being widowed. Then there’s Isabel, whom Antonio is desperate to win back. To illustrate just how selfless he is, when Daniel tracks him down and asks him how much he wants to go along with the charade, he asks for just over twelve thousand dollars, the exact amount Isabel needs for her school tuition. 

Predictably, a lot of the humor in “The Valet” comes from Antonio finding himself in fish-out-of-water situations, such as when he dines with Olivia at an upscale restaurant in front of gathered paparazzi, or when he escorts her to a premiere and has to talk to curious reporters on the red carpet. But the best moments are the ones that take place in and around the little apartment Antonio shares with Marco and Cecilia near MacArthur Park. Not only does the film showcase “real” people, but also a part of Los Angeles rarely seen in rom-coms. 

Derbez explained to Entertainment Voice, “It’s a really funny movie, but also with an amazing message behind it about life in America and how important are all the working-class immigrants in this country.”

“The Valet” isn’t a traditional romantic comedy, as Antonio and Olivia end up learning from each other and forming a connection that runs deeper than the usual rom-com affair. At the end of the day, both need that extra push to get out of unhealthy relationship situations, and they are both able to grow as humans thanks to their relationship, which turns out to be mutually beneficial. Derbez, director Richard Wong and the writer elevate the premise of a celebrity being paired with a normie, one that was recently seen in the Jennifer Lopez vehicle “Marry Me,” and elevate it by getting to the core of who these two people to show that, although they are very different, they have basic wants and needs in common that helps cement their bond.

“I think it’s a really funny dynamic,” Weaving revealed to Entertainment Voice. “It lends itself to some really great comedy. But I guess at the end of the day, they both have, strangely, very similar issues and desires, and they have a common want, which I think is what is so great about this [story]. It’s very funny and very heartwarming.”

“The Valet” is a love letter to Los Angeles, with its focus on different neighborhoods and diverse people. Strong supporting characters include Cecilia, who has a sexual reawakening late in life with her and Antonio’s landlord, Mr. Kim (Ji Young Lee), despite the fact they both speak different languages. There’s also Antonio’s friend, Natalie (Diany Rodriguez), a feisty activist and small business owner who fights against Vincent’s gentrification plans. Finally, there are Kapoor (Ravi Patel) and Stegman (John Pirruccello), two private detectives hired to tail Antonio and Olivia who form their own connection.

With a runtime of just under two hours, the film could have been trimmed down. Although, Derbez, Wong and their team should be applauded for telling the type of stories not usually seen in the rom-com genre. While most people cannot relate to what it’s like to be a celebrity, or the fake partner of a celebrity, the storylines relating to class inequality and gentrification will certainly resonate with many.

The Valet” begins streaming May 20 on Hulu and Disney+.