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Jamon, jamon
[DVD]

$5.99

Francois Pignon, director Francis Veber's quintessential bourgeois French character, makes yet another appearance in the 2007 film "The Valet." In four different films, four actors who have nothing physically in common portray the same character type. Pignon may suffer from a benign Weltschmerz living a routine existence in a one-track job. However, when external circumstances stress his system his natural ability to persevere activates and he comes out fighting for his life at full throttle. Think Daniel Auteuil as Pignon in "The Closet" as he battles a forced resignation from his place of employment by erroneously claiming he is homosexual.

In this latest manifestation, cool blue/green eyed actor Gad Elmaleh plays Pignon to perfection. His very inconspicuousness renders him conspicuous and sets in motion a madcap set of events that continually amuse in a formulaic class struggle that can be categorized as fluff but nevertheless works.

In "The Valet," Pignon is inadvertently positioned as the middleman between billionaire captain of industry Pierre Levasseur (Daniel Auteuil) and his mistress of two years, the breathtakingly lovely media-darling Elena, (Alice Taglioni). Supermodel Elena has given money-bags Pierre the expected divorce-your-wife ultimatum and he cleverly stalls with the help of his lawyer, M.Foix, a despicably jaded stereotype the creation of which Moliere would have been proud. Unfortunately for Levasseur, the proverbial stuff hits the fan when he is seen photographed with Elena in a national tabloid by his wife, Christine, the formidably intelligent beauty, Kristin Scott Thomas, who also happens to own 60% of the Lavasseur businesses. Serendipitously, Pierre's salvation comes in the form of a third person appearing in the photo---the unassuming Pignon, car valet for an expensive Parisian restaurant by the Eiffel Tower which Veber uses stunningly to accentuate the class differences. Lawyer Foix circumvents a messy expensive divorce between the Levasseurs, putting Christine into a dubious holding pattern while arranging for Elena and Pignon to live together and appear in public as a valid yet ludicrous odd couple.

A multitude of wonderfully funny side stories ensue: we watch fellow valet and roommate, the hysterically doubtful Richard (Dany Boon), gap with open-mouth middle class wonder at Pignon's new-found success with the rich, famous and gorgeous Elena. Emilie, (played by pretty Virginie Ledoyen of "The Beach") who previously thought of Pignon as a brother figure, gives him a second more serious look and finds herself incredulously rethinking his marriage proposal when she spots him at a local caf with the blonde bombshell. Equally enjoyable are Pignon's parents---the mother, adorably vindicated as her fantasy regarding her son's appeal to the opposite sex seems a definite reality, plays off the more grounded father, a supposed pneumonia patient who gives up his bed for his hypochondriac doctor. Meanwhile, private detectives, paid lackeys, goggle-eyed waiters and an annoyed maitre d' add to the mayhem. As the count of dumbfounded onlookers increases and reports riddled with incorrect information is relayed back to Pierre his paranoia builds proportionately as he begins to question the ersatz relationship that he put together himself.

Bottom line? Director Francis Veber's film tells a completely modern story using predictable antics from the classical playbook of the great masters of satire. A light-hearted class struggle of sorts, the rich and the famous versus the behind-the-scenes nobodies, "The Valet" satisfies like an airy profiterole with dark chocolate sauce. No heavy whipped-up philosophical or political messages (thank heaven) intended here, so don't expect any. Being able to predict the outcome of certain setup situations makes this visually pleasing film all the more delicious. Guys, take delight in Alice Taglioni, one of two of the most beautiful women I have seen in film this year ---the other being Aishwarya Rai of Mistress of Spices. Laugh and enjoy---don't be put off by the rather abrupt ending.
Date Added: 05/18/2013 by Mancho
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