Francis Veber makes the most from a basic, if bright idea in La Doublure or The Valet, in French with English subtitles. There are already plans to remake this charming farce by The Farrelly Brothers in Hollywood.
Not as well-rounded as The Closet, Veber nonetheless still generates satisfaction from this tidy cinematic bon-bon. Because of the soothing effect of many of his works, especially The Dinner Game, one might think that his films should be backed by Medicare.
Daniel Auteil passes the baton of the self-effacing everyman Francois Pignon to Gad Elmaleh, but still has a kick in potraying wealthy entrepeneur Pierre Levasseur who quickly finds himself in a pickle. That is, the multimillionaire has a mistress in comely supermodel Elena, a smiling Alice Taglioni, and the two are unexpectedly caught on camera by a paparazzi. What to do, as Levasseur's dangerous wife Christine, a cool Kristen Scott Thomas, has controlling interest in the beautifying empire he runs for her.
An alibi for Levasseur with Elmaleh's blurry Francois passing by could make things right for him. That is, if he and his conning attorney (Richard Berry) could persuade Elena to make it look like she is with the wistful attendant who parks sleek autos at a swank restaurant across from the Eiffel Tower. Then, maybe Christine wouldn't see the philandering Pierre for who he really is.
Out of this simplicity, Veber maneuvers a comedic rhythm with some monetary leverage utilized by Elena, understanding the commitment-phobic Levasseur. Virginie Ledoyen is the sweet, long-time girlfriend of Pignon, Emilie, who needs 32,450 Euros to cover the bookstore that she has just opened. But, she can't believe that he would be proposing to her at this inopportune time.
There is delight by all involved, especially Taglioni and the somewhat antic Auteil, so good in other sharp France-based pictures, like Girl on the Bridge and Cache. Maybe more so than the audience, but much of the frothy concoction works from the convocation of Elena and the petulant Pignon.
In this recipe that delivers in such timely fashion, estimable support comes by way of Dany Boon, Francois's slovenly flatmate, Irina Ninova as Emilie's confidante, and a cell-phone businessman with a crush on Emilie. The standout here is Michel Aumont, in a spry turn as Emilie's dad and the Pignon family doctor who needs more care (it seems) than the father (Michel Jonasz) who has a case of bronchitis.
The Valet is presented appealingly right from the opening animated credits that tram with the players in it. Paris looks as good as ever with its big attractions and even one can save the subdued, if distinctive scoring by the gifted musician Alexandre Desplat.