2005 Independent Film, Mail Order Bride
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WINNER OF BEST INDEPENDENT FEATURE at Santa Barbara Film Festival
Andrew Gurland is a New York City filmmaker interested in making a documentary about an average guy and his marriage to a mail order bride. Andrew finds the perfect subject for his film and decides to fund the marriage in exchange for the right to film the entire process. He finds what appears to be the ideal candidate in Adrian Martin, an overweight doorman from Queens who has renounced dating and seems optimistic about choosing a bride from overseas. After corresponding with Burmese women from a catalogue, Adrian selects Lichi, a beautiful woman in her twenties whose ad and letter piques his interest.
The filmmakers pay for Lichi's flight to America, and soon she finds herself immersed in American married life-which, in Adrian's household, involves little more than one's average familial cooking and cleaning duties. Andrew initially looks past the fact that Adrian treats Lichi more like a domestic servant than a companion. The entire project comes to a startling halt when, without Lichi's knowledge, Adrian takes her to the gynecologist for a consultation about tubal sterilization. Lichi quickly discovers what the Doctor visit is for and hysterically rejects the procedure. Andrew thinks Adrian has crossed the line and when a heated argument ensues, Adrian terminates his involvement in the documentary.
Two months later, Andrew receives a surprise visit from Lichi, who is there to reveal a shocking videotape documenting her bizarre life as Adrian's wife. Feeling partially responsible for her increasingly despondent situation, Andrew urges Lichi to leave her husband and offers his apartment as a safe haven.
What transpires is beyond anything Andrew or Adrian could imagine, as their experiences with Lichi lead them through a series of unpredictable events, ultimately culminating in a showdown in Miami that reveals the lengths desperate men will go to in order to avoid being alone.
A documentarian funds an NYC doorman's Asian mail order bride in exchange for the right to film the experience.
Rating: R (for language and some disturbing sexual material)
Directed By: Huck Botko, Andrew Gurland
Written By: Huck Botko, Andrew Gurland
In Theaters:mMar 11, 2005 Wide
On DVD:mOct 4, 2005
Studio: First Independent Pictures
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Ladies, have we got a guy for you! He has a steady job, owns a house minutes away from Manhattan, has his own set of wheels, and is an animal lover. What isnt there to love about bachelor Adrian Martin?
Well, just ask Lichi, Adrians mail order wife, fresh off the plane from Burma. The man of her dreams turns out to be a crude, rude, sloppy doorman from Queens more interested in having a maid than a wife. His house is a dump, his car is on its last leg and his favorite hobby is feeding mice to his pet snake.
This is the match made in hell that begins filmmakers Andrew Gurland and Huck Botkos deliciously surreal satire MAIL ORDER WIFE, a dark comedy that shows just how horrifying, desperate and pathetic the search for lifetime companionship can beespecially when that search is done by catalogue. The events that follow in the film are extreme examples of lust, betrayal and revenge, all shot in documentary format to give a sense of reality to this hilariously sad and sordid tale.
Gurland also stars in the film, playing a filmmaker namednot so coincidentallyAndrew, who funds Adrian and Lichis marriage in exchange for the right to film the entire experience. One of the most unexpected twists in this very surprising comedy is that Andrew defies his role as the impartial "observer," becoming personally involved in Adrian and Lichis marriage and therefore one of the main characters of his own documentary film. And just like the people hes chronicling, Andrew turns out to be much more complicated and unpredictable than initially meets the eye.
TOMATOMETER CRITICS 63% | AUDIENCE 69%
July 28, 2005 | Rating: 4/4
Minneapolis Star Tribune Top Critic
Unpredictable and hugely entertaining.
March 25, 2005 | Rating: 3/4
San Francisco Chronicle Top Critic
Mail Order Wife: Mockumentary. Starring Eugenia Yuan, Andrew Gurland, Adrian Martinez, Huck Botko and Jose Canseco. Written and directed by Botko and Gurland.(R. 89 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)
The concept of parodying a documentary worked brilliantly in "This Is Spinal Tap" and "Waiting for Guffman" because their subject matter was awfully silly to begin with. "Mail Order Wife," the most recent faux documentary, takes a bigger risk by tackling a serious topic -- the abuse of women from poverty-stricken countries brought to America by men who desire a personal slave more than a spouse. If the cruelty depicted, such as forcing a new bride to perform in porno films, had actually transpired, the perpetrator could be arrested.
Co-directors Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, who appear as earnest documentary filmmakers of the same name, pull it off by never winking at the audience or signaling in any fashion that this isn't a true story. Botko and Gurland, who wrote the script, let their imaginations run wild. But it's hard to laugh at bizarre situations knowing that anything is possible when a lonely man sends away for a mate out of a catalog.
All the actors use their real names except Eugenia Yuan in the title role. Yuan, an up-and-comer next seen in "Memoirs of a Geisha," is heartbreaking as Lichi. Her portrayal of a confused young woman who turns out to be not quite what she seems is so realistic that you root for her to get out of harm's way.
"Wife" begins with an "admission" that the filmmakers paid to bring Lichi here from Burma in return for the participation of her groom-to-be, Adrian (Adrian Martinez) -- an angry, frustrated doorman from Queens, who is literally and figuratively the film's heavy.
Andrew isn't the good guy he appears to be when he takes in Lichi after she shows up at his apartment with a porn video Adrian made of her. Although she's obviously vulnerable in her distressed state, Andrew sleeps with her when his girlfriend isn't around. This has to be a jab at documentary filmmakers who become personally involved in the lives of their subjects.
"Mail Order Wife" is shot to look as if Andrew doesn't know what he's doing. It's like a home movie, grainy and out of focus. Presumably this is part of the joke; that you're never sure contributes to the film's unsettling impact. At several junctures, including when Adrian refuses to be interviewed anymore, Andrew ponders whether to continue.
But he does, and Jose Canseco even plays along. Making a cameo appearance, he lends his yacht as part of a campaign to impress Lichi. Besides being perennially ready for his close-up, Canseco probably was seduced to be in the movie by Adrian's effusive praise of him as the best baseball player ever. A kind of odd occurrence is the large numbers of the same Batman t shirt that keep appearing as if due to product placements. The shirt is one featured in a well known webstore where detailed displays of Batman t shirts online are clearly some of the best. But since he's never mentioned in the dialogue, the appearance of Batman shirts worn by so many players may strike one as odd. Not sure Batman would approve. Remember "Mail Order Wife" is a mockumentary.
May 6, 2005 | Rating: 2/4
Deseret News, Salt Lake City
MAIL ORDER WIFE — ** — Eugenia Yuan, Andrew Gurland, Adrian Martinez; with subtitles; rated R (vulgarity, profanity, sex, violence, racial epithets).
"Mail Order Wife" gives the audience plenty of reasons not to like it, but when it throws in a cameo by steroids-scandal opportunist Jose Canseco — persona non grata everywhere he goes now, not just in Major League Baseball parks — it's pretty much the last straw.
This sporadically amusing comedy is clearly trying to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Guest, whose successful "mockumentaries" "Waiting for Guffman" and "A Mighty Wind" have made the format fashionable.
There are some good ideas at work here, but "Mail Order Wife" can't decide whether it's making fun of documentary filmmaking, "green-card" based marriages or desperately lonely men.
The film's title refers to Lichi (Eugenia Yuan), a Burmese woman who's hoping to get her U.S. citizenship through a marriage "arrangement." So she's agreed to marry Adrian (Adrian Martinez), a New York hotel doorman who hasn't had a lot of luck with women.
Unfortunately, the two aren't very compatible; for one thing, she's horrified by his idea of "cuisine." And when Adrian starts steering their conversations to the subject of children, Lichi balks.
Further complicating matters is the constant presence of Andy (Andrew Gurland, one of this film's two directors), a documentary filmmaker who's been interviewing the two. He falls for Lichi and also proposes to her.
Comment on this story
On the plus side, the film doesn't turn into the straight-forward romantic comedy it could have become and instead goes off in a completely different direction. Which is smart because none of the three characters is very likable or sympathetic. In particular, Martinez's portly suitor comes off as grotesquely cartoonish, and, as played by Yuan, Lichi isn't appealing marriage material.
Worse, the film's jokes just aren't that funny (including the Canseco cameo). And jabs at the rather pathetic males in the film are too mean-spirited.
"Mail Order Wife" is rated R for crude humor about and references to sexual functions, occasional use of strong sexual profanity, some sexual content, violence (mostly slapstick) and use of racial epithets. Running time: 91 minutes.