A coming of age comedy about Susan, a young Welsh woman who leaves her quiet country for Germany in search of some real adventure. She falls in love with her boss's lover, but when Susan's ... See full summary »

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Susan (as Clare Woodgate)
Anna Nieland
Dale Rapley ...
Ivo
Elizabeth Schofield ...
Barbara
Karl Tessler
Myriam Weber
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A coming of age comedy about Susan, a young Welsh woman who leaves her quiet country for Germany in search of some real adventure. She falls in love with her boss's lover, but when Susan's boyfriend from Wales shows up, sparks begin to fly. Written by Harvey Cooper

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Falling in Love with your boss' boyfriend can be heartbreaking

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Comedy | Romance

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R
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Pretty standard coming-of-age tale
25 August 2001 | by (Lexington, KY) – See all my reviews

There are some movies that simply *look* old, even if they were made the day before yesterday. I don't know if it's the quality of film stock, or the way the director chose to shot it, or whatever, but they don't weather well. They look old & yet they have telling anachronisms. "Au Pair" looks like it was made in the late 70s, but there's a Mac LC on the desk in one scene, which puts it quite firmly in the early-to-mid 90s. The hometown boyfriend is in a grunge-y rock band as well, meaning of course grunge is around, so it's a postpunk time period. Anyway. Maybe it was supposed to look this way because it's trying to tell a generally romantic story: a young woman coming of age.

I watched this movie because I really liked Georgina Cates (billed here as Clare Woodgate, her real name) in "An Awfully Big Adventure." Though other films I've seen her in, like the dreadful "Stiff Upper Lips," don't really showcase her acting ability, she was fabulous in that twisted & disturbing picture, easily holding her own against very good actors like Hugh Grant & Alan Rickman. In this film, however, she's awful cute & surrounded by totally b-grade actors, especially the guy who plays her hometown boyfriend & the woman she becomes the au pair for, an American actress named Elizabeth Schofield, who delivers lines & emotes like she has just stepped out of high school drama class.

The plot is straightforward: young Welsh girl, dissatisfied with her home life & done with school, leaves long-time boyfriend to go Somewhere Else - in this case, Munich. (It's a Munich, by the way, full of people who have British accents & Germans who seem to speak only English.) The family she is employed by consists of an artist husband & a television commentator wife, both of whom are cheating on the other & both of whom have curious peculiarities that seem too forced to make you interested in them. Cates, as Susan the au pair, has a fight with the mother in which she says, of course, "You aren't even a mother to your child!" - career & extramarital adventures keep her plenty busy. One of these extramarital adventures is a smooth German called Walter who plays his part with a sincerity that is a little embarrassing in this movie. Sure, he's cool, but he has flair, & had Cates & he found a decent story, you might have believed it a little when he seduces Susan & the angry wife forces him to stop seeing her. The rest is pretty by-the-numbers: misunderstandings, secrets revealed, soul-searching. You've seen it a billion times. You wouldn't mind seeing it again, if it were done well. I'm here to say it isn't.

I'm not, nor never have been (at least not in this life) an eighteen-year-old girl, but I believe there is something true for both sexes about the coming-of-age story, & I actually like dorky American teen movies that suck the marrow of that particular bone until there's nothing left. This film is most definitely not a teen comedy, but it's trying to give itself a kind of Merchant-Ivory cred that is all facade. It does try to be a bit eccentric, but such eccentricities are telegraphed way in advance or clumsily tossed in at the moments when a viewer, bored or about to change the channel, might think, "I could use an amusing eccentricity right about now."

Of course, I don't think I've ever thought that, & I certainly hope you don't, but seeing this film made me think that way more than once. & by golly that's a Bad Thing.


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