“The Valet” is basically “Notting Hill,” but with friendship, and it surprisingly manages to create its own brand of magic. To be honest, we tuned into this film without any expectations. I mean, that’s what we have learned from remakes and rom-coms in the recent past. But “The Valet” proves us wrong and shows that, given enough thought and opportunity, even the most overdone storylines have the potential to be enjoyable and make us feel something, which is the purpose of cinema, to begin with.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘The Valet’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
The film starts with, yes, a valet by the name of Antonio Flores, who is parking cars. He seems to be a humble, down-to-earth kind of guy who is usually taken for granted by the people around him. He lives with his mother and shares custody of his son with his wife, who is separated from him. When his wife comes to pick up their son for the weekend, she tells him that she has to take a break from school because she has fallen behind on some car payments and cannot afford to pay the school fees this year. She just has two semesters left and needs $12,850. Antonio offers to help her, but she declines and tells him that she has started dating a famous realtor by the name of Ronnie and is happy with him. Another problem in his neighborhood is that a developer plans on buying up some buildings and gentrifying the place. The owner of the bike shop that he goes to, Natalie, tells him about it, and it looks like she has a crush on him. His mother, on the other hand, has started a relationship with their landlord, Mr. Kim. It is funny because neither of them speak English. Antonio’s mother speaks only Spanish, and Mr. Kim only speaks Korean, but they seem to get along very well with each other.
Elsewhere, Olivia Allan is a successful actress who has just started a new company of her own. She is also seeing a married man by the name of Vincent Royce. It looks like he has told her that his wife is a horrible person and he wants to leave her, but her mother died, and then she got depressed, so he is stuck with her for the time being. Olivia retorts by saying that he has said the same thing to her for over a year, and she tells him to call her when he gets a divorce. As she walks out and hails a cab, Antonio runs into the standing cab as he is distracted and falls down. Olivia asks him if he is okay when Vincent comes running out and tries to talk to her. Unknown to them, they were photographed by the paparazzi. The photograph is of Vincent, Olivia, and Antonio. As it gets printed in the newspaper, Vincent’s wife questions him about it. Vincent tells her that Olivia was meeting Antonio and not him, and he just happened to run into them. He asks his lawyer to help him make his lie come true by finding Antonio. In another scene, we see that Olivia is panicking as well, as this news could ruin her new film and take away the investors from her company. So when Vincent comes to her to ask if she would pretend to be a couple with Antonio, she readily agrees for the sake of her upcoming projects.
The Beginning Of Antonio And Olivia’s Story
Antonio is asked if he would be willing to participate in this charade, and he agrees, for the sum of $12,850. He obviously sees this as a way to win back his wife. Later that day, Olivia comes to his workplace, kisses him in front of everyone, and takes him to lunch with all the paparazzi watching. They talk for a little while at the restaurant, and she informs him that he will be accompanying her to her film’s premiere and that she will arrange a tuxedo for him, even though he insists that he can rent it from his friend Chucho.
A few days later, he gets dressed for the premiere and waits for Olivia in a limousine she sent. He is advised by her publicist to not talk much and just say that he is there to support Olivia on her big night. At the premiere, he is a little awkward but manages himself well. Things seem to take a turn, however, when Olivia and Antonio are approached by Kathryn and Vincent, who chat them up and ask how they met. Olivia comes up with a lie, and the conversation ends on a good note, though she is left very shaken. She is in the bathroom when Vincent comes looking for her and tries to talk to her, but she tells him that he lied to her, and Kathryn seems like a good person. He replies that she is good at parties but is a horrible person at home. Olivia doesn’t reply but leaves the place. At the party, Antonio is approached by Kathryn, who offers him $100,000 to tell her the truth about their relationship, as she does not believe that Olivia and Antonio are dating. Antonio tells her that she has underestimated the charisma of a Latin man, and they are actually in love. As he steps out of the room, he finds Olivia quite drunk on the stairs. Not knowing what else to do, he takes her to his house.
Throughout it all, she is being tailed by a detective, Stegman, hired by Kathryn. And Stegman is being tailed by Kapoor, a detective hired by Vincent to see what he finds out. Stegman and Kapoor used to work together and are still on good terms. Kapoor bugs Stegman’s car to keep a check on what he finds out. Stegman sees that Antonio and Olivia have spent the night at his place and is convinced their relationship is real. He informs Kathryn of the same.
The Start Of A New Friendship
When Olivia wakes up, she is greeted by Antonio’s entire family, who are excited to see her. She has breakfast at their place and gets quite attached to all of them when she sees that this is something that she has been missing for a while now. But Vincent, who has heard from Kapoor that Olivia has spent the night at Antonio’s place, is not very happy. That day, Olivia comes to know that her film has done very well, but she is unable to celebrate it as all of the people she knows are busy with their families, and she has no one. She then goes to Antonio’s son’s play of “Midsummer’s Night Dream” to spend some time with his family. Seeing her, Isabel gets very jealous and insecure. She kisses Antonio and asks him if he would leave Olivia for her. Antonio tells her everything and that it was all an act and he had even turned down $100,000 for it. Isabel is shocked but says that they will talk later.
Antonio and Olivia leave the party and just take a walk in a park, talking about each other’s lives. She tells him that she doesn’t want to be alone and asks if she can spend the night at his place. Antonio agrees, and in his apartment, they see that the detectives are still following them. Olivia suggests that if they are looking for something, they should give them something and goes on to pretend to get intimate with him, which is recorded by the detectives.
The next day, Antonio goes to talk to Isabel, who tells him that she wants a divorce as she can’t believe he turned down $100,000, and she wants to be with someone who feels like he deserves better in life. Antonio is upset, and he comes back home, where Olivia is waiting for him. When asked about how his meeting went, he tells her that Isabel wants to break up with him as she only wanted him because he was with a famous actress. They have a fight where he asks her why she herself is with a married man if she doesn’t believe that she deserves better? And if she would ever talk to him again after this whole thing ended? They part on these not very good terms but not before he tells the paparazzi following them that they have broken up.
Olivia leaves, but Vincent comes to meet Antonio, and he punches him as he thinks he has slept with his girlfriend. That very day, the detectives continue to keep an eye on Antonio’s house and see his mother and Mr. Kim together. Stegman says that he wants a relationship like theirs where someone cooks breakfast for him the morning after.
‘The Valet’ Ending Explained- Do Antonio And Olivia Get Over Their Fight?
As Stegman admires their relationship through the window, Antonio’s mother falls down as she suffers a stroke. She passes away because of that. At her funeral, Antonio thanks Mr. Kim for all the happiness he has given her in the past and tells him that he will be her family. The next scene shows Antonio’s friends encouraging him to make up with Olivia. He takes their advice and goes to their set, where she tells him that she is sorry to hear about his mother. In turn, he apologizes for the things he said to her. She tells him that his words hurt because they were true, and she does want to break up with Vincent, but might need his help. From the looks of it, both of them have repaired their friendship.
In the next scene, we see Kathryn going through Antonio’s phone and seeing multiple calls to “Councilman Gary.” She gets curious and calls the number, only to have Olivia pick it up. Cut to Vincent waiting for Olivia at their usual place, but to his surprise, it is Antonio, who gives him the divorce papers and calls up his wife. Kathryn informs him that she is divorcing him and getting him arrested for some of the embezzlement he has been doing. He tells her that he loves her and that Olivia is just some vain actress throwing herself at him, but unknown to him, she was in the car with Kathryn and tells him to go to hell.
Olivia apologizes to Kathryn for getting involved with Vincent when Kathryn tells her that when she met Vincent, he was married to his first wife, so she knew what she was getting into. She also thanks Antonio and asks him if she can do something for him, to which he asks her to stop the gentrification project in his neighborhood. ‘The Valet’ ends with Antonio having started a relationship with his long-time crush Natalie as well as having lunch with Olivia, who is now one of his best friends.
We are honestly blown away by the sweetness of the film. Of course, the characters and the storylines are major cliches, and we knew everything that was going to happen, but it was truly done so well. Usually, we end up cringing at Hollywood’s attempts at representation, when they force-fit every single minority into the narrative, but “The Valet” did it seamlessly. Even the storyline of the two detectives who end up in a domestic situation was brought about so subtly that we couldn’t help but smile. We wish we had seen Antonio as more than someone just caught up in everyone’s lives, but maybe that was essential to his character?
We really loved how they did not make the story about romance but about how the right person can also be just a friend and still make such a difference in our lives. It would have been difficult to have a high opinion of “The Valet” if they had taken the traditional romance route for the leads. In terms of entertainment, the film delivered. We are still not sure what about this film worked, but something definitely did. Maybe it was how the emotions weren’t forced or how the characters stayed true to themselves. That was really refreshing to watch. But somewhere, we can’t help but wonder if this film would have worked, say, 5 years ago. Does it work now because of rom-coms reaching a saturation point, or could it have been a story for the ages anyway? We would need to ponder that a little more. But for now, we love “The Valet” and would be glad to recommend it to others.
“The Valet” is a 2022 Drama Romance film directed by Richard Wong.