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Mail Order Wife

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/15/04 12:15:03

"Keep stirring... keep stirring..."
5 stars (Awesome)

Upon leaving this stellar mockumentary about a filmmaker who pays for a slob of a man to get a mail order bride in return for the right to film the experience, I overheard a woman saying "I thought it was real until I saw Jose Canseco!" The scene she's talking about happens about ten minutes from the end of the film, which says to me one of two things. A) She's a complete moron, or B) This is one hell of a well made faux doco. To be honest, she didn't seem like a moron.

Andrew Gurland is a documentary filmmaker exploring the ins and outs of the world of mail order brides. For the uninitiated, a mail order bride is a woman from a third world country who agrees to marry a western man, essentially sight unseen, in return for a way out of her impoverished situation at home. They come from everywhere - Russia, Asia, Africa, even western countries - all looking for a better life and prepared to be a housemaid/concubine in return for the opportunity.

Enter Adrian (Adrian Martinez), a large slovenly Queens resident who has a pet boa constrictor, a recipe for making chili that involves six long squeezes of ketchup, and an idea of romance that amounts to leaving post-it notes around the house containing suggestions such as "don't cry" and "keep stirring".

As Mail Order Bride kicks in to gear, it's obvious that Adrian is simply looking for a house slave, not a life partner, and harsh words begin to break out between filmmaker and film subject. The project is abruptly cut short when Adrian blames the filmmaker for his wife's outrage that he has booked her in for surgery to have her tubes tied, but five weeks later she shows up at the director's door with a video tape that changes everything.

Take my word for it - Mail Order Bride will have you on the floor laughing, while simultaneously gaping wide at the things men will do to obtain something that looks pretty. Lichi seems to be a simple girl who has found herself in a strange land in the midst of a tug of war between men so self-obsessed that what the object of their affections wants doesn't even seem ot be a part of the equation. That one is a less than sophisticated guy seems understandable, but when the filmmaker himself begins to get his hooks in, things go from hilarious to tragic to hilarious to hilariously tragic.

And then there's Jose Canseco.

A mockumentary that can completely disguise itself as reality while still leaving you in tears of laughter is perhaps the ultimate goal of anyone who goes near the genre, and Hugh Botko and Andrew Gurland have not only succeeded in this goal, they've excelled at it. The film has absolutely no star power, absolutely no budget, and will still have absolutely no problem earning a lot of money should it be opened wide.

A caustic commentary on how men handle love, as well as how they're led around by the head of their genitalia, Mail Order Bride should not be missed. It's funny, yet it matters - "Keep stirring."

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