(The Valet)

Some motion pictures are like hearty meals -- rich and filled with surprising
pleasures. Others are like desserts, light, fluffy yet wholly enjoyable.
Throughout his career, Francis Veber has concentrated on the latter, crafting
amusing comedies. In each of his movies, his central character is named
François and he continues the conceit with
his latest delicious trifle.

Veber has crafted an intricate plot that is like a modern-day spin on Moliere
or Feydeau and equal parts farce and boulevard comedy. Wealthy
businessman Pierre Levasseur (Daniel Auteuil, who starred in Veber's
LA PLACARD) is caught by a paparazzo in a compromising
situation with his supermodel mistress (the statuesque Alice Taglioni). To
avoid a messy divorce, he tries to convince his wife Christine (Kristin Scott
Thomas) that the woman's lover is the other man in the photo -- lowly parking
valet François Pignon (comic Gad Elmaleh). Pignon is having his own
romantic problems. He is in love with his childhood friend Émilie (Virginie
Ledoyen) who has rejected his proposal, partly because she has incurred a
large debt after opening a bookstore. She is also being pursued by Pascal (a
very amusing Patrick Mille), a cell phone store owner and ladies' man.

Levasseur's legal advisor locates Pignon and convinces him to play along
with the story -- so Elena moves into his cramped, tiny flat, meaning his
roommate and co-worker Richard (Dany Boon) has to move back home with
his alcoholic mother. Things get complicated when Christine Levasseur
realizes what her husband is up to and sets her own plan in action.

Veber juggles the stories with a deft touch and he is ably assisted by his
expert cast. Auteuil is wonderful as the blustery businessman, Taglioni is
perfectly cast as Alice, while Scott Thomas brings a wonderfully malevolent
sense of humor to her role. Elmaleh is terrific as Pignon, a fairly simple man
whose life becomes very complicated. Ledoyen delivers a fine turn as the
bookstore owner who has second thoughts once her old friend lands in the
tabloid glare. There are also masterful supporting performances from Michel
Aumont as Ledoyen's physician father who is "allergic" to his patients, and
Michel Jonasz and Michèle Garcia as Pignon's parents.

Without revealing too much, it should be noted that Veber does not take the
expected route as the story unfolds. Except for a slightly misguided final
LA DOUBLURE (THE VALET) is a great dessert movie: a brisk and
breezy romp that will leave audiences smiling.

Rating:                                     B+
MPAA Rating:                        PG-13 for sexual content and language
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy.
All Rights Reserved.
L to R: Alice Taglioni as
Elena and Gad Elmaleh
as François Pignon in
The Valet /
La Doublure
Francis Veber, 2006; 85m

Photo Credit: Dominique
Le Strat
© Gaumont - EFVE Films -
TF1 Films Production - Kairos
/ courtesy of Sony Pictures
Classics Inc. All Rights