‘The Valet’ Goes Down Similar Winding RomCom Path

I liked The Valet. I just wish it took a better shortcut to get to its conclusion. At two hours, this is a good 15-20 minutes too long. It’s also takes a little road less traveled for a romcom like this. The plot seems similar to Notting Hill or the recently released Marry Me in which some likeable regular guy finds himself involved with a big-time celebrity and it suddenly changes up his life.

Antonio Flores (Eugenio Derbez) is a valet at a posh restaurant in the Los Angeles area. He’s a humble guy but unfortunately, his life isn’t so well. He’s separated from his wife, Isabel (Marisol Nichols) and lives with his mother, Cecilia (Carmen Salinas in her last role and such a delight to watch) in an apartment. Cecilia is having a relationship with the landlord Mr. Kim (Ji Yong Lee).

One night, Antonio crashes his bicycle into an Uber car that’s parked outside a posh hotel, owned and operated by billionaire Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield.) Vincent is having a secret affair with Hollywood A-list celebrity, Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving). Vincent is also married to Kathryn (Betsy Brandt), who inherited her father’s empire, and Vincent is at risk of losing his fortune if she finds out he’s cheating on her. To complicate matters, paparazzis take a picture of Antonio with Vincent and Olivia.

Olivia is a pampered celebrity and is afraid the buzz about her having an affair with Vincent might hurt her status as well as an upcoming movie in which she plays Amelia Earhart set to be released that week. Vincent devises a plan to pay Antonio to pretend to be Olivia’s girflriend which she likes as well as it will make her more likable to the public.

At the same time, Isabel has told Antonio she will need to take a break from going to college as she can’t pay the $18,500 needed for tuition. Seeing this as a good way to get in good with her and help his teenage son, Antonio agrees for the sum of Isabel’s tuition. But he soon finds that Olivia isn’t that nice of a person and because he’s a Latino, he is initially mistaken for the wait staff when he goes along with Olivia on a lunch date with the media a few feet away taking pictures. Also, both Vincent and Kathryn have each hired their own private investigator to track Olivia and Antonio.

Ok, you’ve seen this story before. Eventually, Olivia will realize that Antonio is a good person and she’s been wrong about everything. Antonio becomes famous among his own Latino community and Olivia gets treated better by Antonio’s friend and family than her people. Isabel will become interested in Antonio again but only because he’s now popular. At the same time, Antonio has a friendship with Natalie (Diany Rodriguez), the owner of a bicycle shop in the neighborhood who’s fighting the powers that be against the gentrification developers. Oh, and guess who are the developers?

Antonio and Olivia become real close but not too close. That’s part of the problem. At 60, Derbez is twice the age of Weaving so thankfully, this isn’t another romcom with a huge age disparity. But, the character of Natalie is so underused that it comes off more as an afterthought when Antonio asks her out at the end. Antonio and Olivia have more of a platonic relationship and they do have good chemistry as friends.

The sweeter story is between Cecilia and Mr. Kim. At first it seems like a typical Older-People-Like-To-Get-Freaky trope we’ve seen a lot before. But Salinas as well as director Richard Wong and writers Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg keep it from going down that route. They actually begin a decent, loving real relationship.

Also, the two investigators, Kapoor (Ravi Patel) and Stegman (John Pirruccello) actually begin a relationship themselves that may be platonic or something more. It hints at something more. Weaving’s character isn’t like the one in Julia Roberts played in Notting Hill nor the one Jennifer Lopez played in Marry Me. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t become sympathetic. You just know for the first few scenes that she’s not going to end up with Antonio.

And sometimes, romcoms need to take a different path. Some people may groan at the way the movie handles gentrification or how Antonio and his fellow Latino friends are treated by celebrities. Let’s not forget Hollywood bigwigs, while often seen as liberal, are willing to be hypocrital on matters when it pertains to them. But not all romcoms have to have that big moment at the end. I think this is more realistic.

There’s a good story here about good people. And the late Salinas should lead many people searching for her earlier work. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is posthumously nominated for a few awards. In the end, everything turns out just the way it should.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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