Saturday, June 11, 2011

Au Pair, Kansas

Oddmund (Håvard Lilleheie) and
Helen (Traci Lords) in Au Pair, Kansas.
Au Pair, Kansas, dir. J.T. O'Neal, 2010 USA, 94 min. 
Sat. 6/25, 9:30p @ Victoria, AUPA25V
preceded by Mr. Right, dir. Jim Knoop, 2010 Canada, 9 min. (not reviewed)

Helen (Traci Lordsis a recent widow, raising two sons on a bison ranch near the Swedish town of Lindsborg in central Kansas. She sends off for an au pair, and gets Oddmund (Håvard Lilleheie), a Norwegian who literally kicks his soccer ball down the stairs of the airplane as he arrives. Everyone wonders which team Oddmund really plays for — is he gay, or just European? In the mean time, Helen must deal with the ghost of her gay husband while raising a 15-year-old and a 9-year-old boy. When Helen develops feelings for Oddmund, things get really complicated, the police get involved, and somehow, through it all, we see the importance of real connections between people.
First of all, yes, Traci Lords started her career in XXX-rated films before she was old enough to do that sort of thing legally, so you won't be able to nip down to the corner video store to do a retrospective on her early work. However, in the years since, she has honed her acting skills and succeeded in being taken seriously in “legitimate” film. She had a cameo in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, for instance, but in Au Pair, Kansas, she displays an impressive range, making her truly a star of the film and not just a novelty. Håvard Lilleheie is new to American audiences, but had a couple of TV series in his native Norway. Other players in the film will be familiar, from the boys (whom you’ve probably seen in everything from Nip/Tuck to the 2009 Star Trek film) to the unforgettable Taco Chick / Kay Sedia from the Frameline festival trailer a few years back. It’s a great cast, all around, with characters mostly to match, but the “dad’s ghost” bit was overplayed, the conversion of the school bully to affable soccer teammate was too immediate, and the plot twist with a photographer near the end was just strange. Still, it’s a humorous and heartwarming story with top-notch production values, so I’d say Highly Recommended.

Keywords: Frameline35, LGBT Film

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