Au Pair, Kansas
"Au Pair, Kansas" takes the gay vs. European debate to new heights. This heartwarming film explores the concept of family, masculinity and the taboo of men liking children. When a Norwegian man becomes an au pair for a farm family his sexuality becomes a hot topic and a source of contention for the small-town.
"Au Pair, Kansas" follows Oddmund (Håvard Lilleheie), a Norwegian soccer fan who comes to America to be an au pair for a recent widow Helen (Traci Lords) and her two sons, Atticus (Spencer Daniels) and Beau (Kendall Ryan Sanders). Oddmund is full of cartoonish exuberance and wonder. He also confesses to "love children." Helen is passive aggressive, controlling and miserable since the death of her husband. She is angry and they are instantly put at odds with comical culture clashes and awkward moments. As the film progresses, the boys grow to learn about life and manhood and come to terms with their father’s death with Oddmund’s help. He also becomes fast friends with the eccentric members of his town.
The film tackles interesting issues. What does it say about a man who loves children? Reminiscent of Peter Paige’s film "Say, Uncle" the question of Oddmund’s sexuality and possible pedophilia arises. As the film progresses, family secrets are revealed that shed light on some of Helen’s issues with Oddmund. Ultimately, Oddmund is vindicated but it does raise the issue of why men can’t love children.
There are some other gay themes to the film. Younger son Beau is hinted to be a homosexual. His dead father’s acceptance is a touching and heartfelt moment that would bring any self-respecting person to tears. Mary Kay (Oscar Quintero) is a transgendered character who, despite living in Kansas, is never questioned or mocked for being born a man but living as a woman. While not relying heavily on gay storylines, the film offers a gay-sensitive and respectful portrayal. It explores subject matter relevant to the gay community while providing a film readily acceptable to the American public.
"Au Pair, Kansas" is a unique and touching film. It manages to tackle deep issues with sensitivity and heart. Although slow at times, the film does offer some universal appeal.
This article is part of our "Philadelphia Qfest 2012" series. Want to read more?
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