French writer-director Francis Veber has done it again. La Doublure / The Valet is another hilarious romp featuring Veber’s go-to guy, Daniel Auteuil, amongst other gifted comedians.
The plot is fairly simple. When paparazzi catch billionaire CEO Pierre Levasseur (Auteuil) with his supermodel mistress Elena (Alice Taglioni), Pierre goes to extravagant lengths to avoid a divorce. He hires François Pignon (Gad Elmaleh), a lovesick valet, to trick his wife by playing the role of Elena’s live-in boyfriend. Pierre’s wife Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas), however, is no fool and has a few tricks of her own to torment Pierre.
Those who know Veber well will know what to expect: a guy named Pignon, a case of mistaken identity, moments of genuine friendship, and hilarious farce. The Valet doesn’t disappoint.
It is easy to call The Valet nothing more than an entertaining triumph, but beyond the silly goings-on are touching stories and a bit of social commentary. For instance, when Pierre’s lawyer, Foix (Richard Berry), asks Pignon to name his price for going along with the plan, Pignon asks for an exact amount, nothing more and nothing less. This amount will be enough to pay the debt Emilie (Virginie Ledoyen), the love of his life, owes for opening her own business, and will thus give her the financial freedom to love. Additionally, Pignon refuses to change his lifestyle even though Foix insists that Pignon’s status, job, and wardrobe aren’t suitable for the lover of a top model such as Elena.
The film’s original French title, La Doublure can be translated as “the stand-in.” As Pignon stands in the role of Elena’s lover, it becomes clear that the “lowly” stand-in can impart a few good lessons to the rich and famous. The original French title is more inclusive of the film’s overall subject matter than its English counterpart, but the subtitles as a whole are accurate and capture Veber’s witty dialogue.
Although the premise of The Valet seems improbable, trite, and familiar, its humor distracts from its faults. In sum, The Valet is another thoroughly enjoyable French farce.
© Lauren Creamer
Lauren Creamer is a writer and translator with a passion for French culture.
La Doublure / The Valet (2006). Dir. / Scr.: Francis Veber. Cast: Gad Elmaleh, Daniel Auteuil, Alice Taglioni, Kristin Scott Thomas, Virginie Ledoyen, Dany Boon, Richard Berry, Michel Aumont.