There’s a certain cigar-chompin’, sports bar frequenting male demographic out there who’d rather not have to go to the trouble of meeting, courting and marrying women the old fashioned way. It’s for guys such as these that some sharp-witted entrepreneur first created the concept of the romance tour. For these guys, the prospect of flying to some foreign country and essentially trying to buy a wife from a bevy of supposedly willing women, holds tremendous appeal.
Brothers Jake (Tim Blake Nelson) and Josh (David Arquette) Adams have motives that are a little more simplistic and straightforward. Their mom has just died, leaving the two grown siblings to care for themselves, which, as quickly becomes apparent, they’re clearly not capable of doing. When Jake stumbles across an ad for a romance tour of St. Petersburg, Russia, the proverbial light bulb flashes on above his skull. Thus, before you can say, “From Russia, with love,” the boys are on a plane bound for Russia, searching not so much for a wife, but rather an eligible live-in maid who can cook.
The brothers’ search methods are as opposite as they are. Whereas Jake conducts a thorough, methodical and utterly clinical search through the company’s extensive database of women, Josh chooses the more visceral, i.e., lust-driven approach. Complicating their flailing and failing search is Angela Beck (Emily Mortimer), a pretty but cynical British journalist who’s shooting a documentary on the whole romance tour phenomenon. As time grows short and the pressures of the search mount, tempers begin to flare. Frustrated by his brother’s philandering and seemingly oblivious to Angela’s growing attachment to him, Jake at last hits upon one final, desperate plan to find their woman.
Even though director Helmut Schleppi’s cornball film is decidedly tongue in cheek, it was still delightful to come across such a deliciously politically incorrect film. Having said that, it’s virtually impossible to take this premise seriously. Josh and Jake seem far too clean cut and “normal” to be the social misfits they’re supposed to be. It’s also hard to believe that anyone could be as oblivious and stupid as to the error of his ways as is Jake. Finally, it’s hard to believe that every woman in St. Petersburg, Russia is the sort of uber-model on display in this film. (If so, it’s obvious that the real reason the USSR kept the Iron Curtain clamped down so tightly was to keep us capitalist pigs away from their women!)
A genial, generally amusing film, “A Foreign Affair” won’t stick in a viewer’s mind any longer than the first dusting of snow sticks to Moscow’s Red Square. For nothing but pure goofy escapism, however, “A Foreign Affair” is at least worth a fling.