Might contain spoilers.
Witty, absurd, charming, clever, endearing, and touching. A ridiculous plot is transformed into something eminently believable by brilliant execution. The parallels with the execrable Marry Me can’t be ignored, but this is everything that film wishes it was. I could quote line after line and scene after scene; it’s hilarious from start to finish.
Samara Weaving is an actor of a different calibre who infuses a surprising amount of personality into Olivia with her fantastic expressions and timing. Eugenio Derbez fearlessly delivers a virtuoso performance as Antonio, one of the most awkward characters I’ve ever seen; Antonio has no looks or charisma, yet he’s incredible charming, presumably because of his honesty, decency, and, of course, obvious naïveté.
The film practically overflows with empathy for each and every lovingly-etched character in the impressive cast, including the detectives and even Vincent Royce himself. The story doesn’t judge him or loathe him for his philandering, his entitlement, his deceit, or his lack of substance—it simply presents a typical rich, entitled, dishonest, egotistical white man, portrayed with aplomb by Max Greenfield. Even his wife, Kathryn, is a complete person, not a caricature.
Indeed, a critical part of The Valet’s success is that we see Olivia’s deep loneliness and dissatisfaction, making it easier to understand why her accidental relationship with Antonio blossoms. It’s nurtured patiently and with restraint, unhurriedly carried by undertones and overtones, forgoing any attempt to force the two together for the sake of the plot. It gradually solidifies into something hard to describe but undeniably real.
The only sour note is the death of the instantly lovable Cecilia: an unnecessary, heartbreaking twist that adds nothing to the story, not even reuniting Antonio with Olivia. There were other ways to bring him back down to Earth.
In retrospect, I’m delighted to see the upwards trajectory from the enjoyable I Want You Back to the great The Lost City and now to this. That’s three good-to-amazing romcoms out of four in the same year. An unlooked-for bounty, but a welcome change.
- Played by Betsy Brandt (Marie from Breaking Bad )!↩