Sunday, July 30, 2006

La Doublure (The Valet), un film de Francis Veber

My first encounter with Veber was his marvellous The Closet, which I see is being remade by Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham, Brider and Prejudice). This is his latest movie to hit our screens: it opens with two young men driving very flash cars - my immediate reaction was that they'd be racing them. But no - they are two workmates (Richard (right) and Francois), two very ordinary men who valet for a swanky restaurant: they call each other ass-face and are not very lucky in love.

The comedy starts with an elderly doctor making a home visit but having a fainting fit and requiring treatment from his patient, Francois's father.

The doctor is father of the lovely Émilie (played by Virginie Ledoyen, who was Francois in The Beach): it turns out that Francois determined when they were at kindergarten together that they were going to marry and the time is apparently now ripe for him to make his move. Unfortunately for him, she sees him as too much like her brother to have any romantic interest for her.

So, that sets the scene for the farce that is about to unfold. Pierre (Daniel Autiel) has been having an affair with a super model: a random photographer caught them on film and, of course, it made the newspapers. So Pierre has to find some way out of divorce from his wife, as she owns the majority of the company he runs - it would ruin him to lose control. So, he and his lawyer (who is the less evil of
the two) have this big plot. The photo just happened to include Francois as well, so they run with the idea of making it look like Francois and the supermodel, Elena, are the couple and Pierre was just randomly caught by the lens. Elena is not cheap: she genuinely loves Pierre (why??) and is bitter because he's played her; her demand is 20 million Euros.

Francois is more humble: when asked to have Eelena come live with him, his reaction is "how much will I have to pay?" He is very aware of his limitations, that guys like him just don't get to be with supermodels - and we soon see that he's still totally smitten with
Émilie. His only demand is enough money to get her out of a financial difficulty, and so the deal is done. Elena is in his hovel
pouring his beer, pretending to be living with him. She, of course, is expecting the worst, that he'll be some sort of creep and take advantage of the situation. But they talk, and she finds out about his love for Émilie - who is now being stalked by this completely odious cell phone salesmen: we know all we need to know about him just from his ringtone. So, there's one tense scene where Elena and Francois are at lunch, and mad cellphone guy has persuaded Émilie to have lunch with him. Of course, they're all at the same restaurant: lets just say, it becomes pretty clear that Francois is no longer just a brother to Émilie. Lucky him, because she really was lovely, and ran a bookshop, not because she wanted to make lots of money, but because she loved books.

Of course, being a comedy, everything comes out right in the end. Without necessarily having any quotably funny one liners, this movie was still one which had me laughing pretty much the whole way through. One thing that did amuse me: this is obviously not a movie to take seriously, but in a scene where there was a bit of cat and mouse going on, trying to get Elena away from a fellow following her, we had music appropriate to a car chase scene in a movie which does take itself seriously. Then there was some bank heist type music when a particularly secret (but nonsensical) task had to be performed. All these things added up to a hugely enjoyable movie. But at the same time, it was heartwarming: love matters, cheats ultimately don't prosper, money isn't the answer, nor is fame and celebrity.


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