Mail Order Wife

Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko's bleakly comic mockumentary revolves around shallow filmmaker Andrew (Gurland), whose documentary about a doorman and his Burmese mail-order bride turns into an inadvertent exploration of his own unsavory inclinations and unattractive capacity for self-delusion. Tired of the bar scene, portly, boorish Adrian Martin (Adrian...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko's bleakly comic mockumentary revolves around shallow filmmaker Andrew (Gurland), whose documentary about a doorman and his Burmese mail-order bride turns into an inadvertent exploration of his own unsavory inclinations and unattractive capacity for self-delusion. Tired of the bar scene, portly, boorish Adrian Martin (Adrian Martinez) turns to "international matchmaking company" Paradise Girls and begins corresponding with Lichi (Eugenia Yuan). Adrian doesn't have much going for him, but he makes sure to emphasize his few assets: He works in the fields of "security and property management," owns a car and has a shabby little house with a concrete backyard in Ozone Park, Queens. Shy Lichi arrives some months later, unable to speak English, and becomes Adrian's cook, maid, pet-snake feeder and unwilling partner in the creepy sex games he stages and films in the basement. Unable to maintain documentary detachment after filming Adrian's attempt to trick Lichi into getting a tubal ligation, Andrew accuses Adrian of being abusive and encourages Lichi to take refuge in his own chic Manhattan loft. Under the guise of helping her get a work visa, Andrew begins exploiting Lichi as well — her "training" involves preparing elaborate dinner-party menus for Andrew and his friends, and he starts sleeping with her behind his girlfriend's (Merritt Janson) back — so she goes back to Adrian. Andrew doggedly keeps on filming as he lures Lichi into resuming their relationship and finally abandoning Adrian yet again. By the time the sordid saga has played itself out, no one's delusions of self-respect or fundamental decency have been spared. A founder of the New York Underground Film Festival, Gurland has toggled back and forth between fiction and documentary films (including 1998's Frat House, which was pulled from HBO's lineup amid questions about staged footage), so he was probably destined to try his hand at the mockumentary form. The result, a dissection of the complicated dynamics of sexual and economic exploitation, is pitiless and occasionally inspired. Eugenia Yuan (CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES) is Gurland's secret weapon; Lichi is by far the story's most complicated and unpredictable character, and her performance is consistently flawlessly pitched. Her chirpy guided tour of her collection of individually named pig tchotchkes (which Andrew clearly despises with every shred of bourgeois good taste in his body) is a painfully hilarious highlight.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko's bleakly comic mockumentary revolves around shallow filmmaker Andrew (Gurland), whose documentary about a doorman and his Burmese mail-order bride turns into an inadvertent exploration of his own unsavory inclinations and una… (more)

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