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By Merle Bertrand | February 14, 2005

If you’re a typical lonely guy out there, surely the thought must have crossed your mind at one time or another, at least for an instant, to consider the idea of seeking out a mail order bride. If so, you’ll probably change your mind after seeing this raucous and unpredictable fake documentary on the subject from directors Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland. For fake though the doc may be, it’s still the kind of thing that could happen to you.

Adrian Martin (Adrian Martinez) seems like a decent enough fellow; a guy whom, as he points out repeatedly, has a job, his own house and a car. What he doesn’t have is love, so he’s decided to give the mail order thing a try. Even better for him, he won’t have to pay for it as, in exchange for his agreeing to be the subject in filmmaker Andrew’s (Gurland) documentary on mail order brides, Andrew has agreed to pay the costs of getting Adrian’s bride-to-be to the States.

When Lichi (Eugenia Yuan Lichi) arrives, she quickly finds herself to essentially be more Adrian’s indentured servant than his wife, forced to clean his toilet, make him chili and feed rats to his pet snake. When Andrew questions Adrian’s ruse to lure Lichi into having her tubes tied, it spells the end of their cooperation on the documentary. When Lichi shows up at Andrew’s door with a video showing her unwitting performance as Adrian’s sex slave, it sets in motion a chain of events culminating in her leaving the loathsome hotel doorman for the only slightly more reputable and much more neurotic filmmaker. And when their ensuing marriage subsequently collapses as expected, it reveals Lichi for what she really is…and triggers an unlikely alliance between her two jilted ex-husbands.

Though growing increasingly disenchanted with the mockumentary style of filmmaking, it’s hard to imagine “Mail Order Bride” being produced any other way, as the ever-evolving documentary and its maker is the entire film. It’s almost as if it’s a film within a film…but yet they’re the same film.

I think I just hurt myself.

In any event, Botko and Gurland’s bleak and caustic comedy gets off to a slow start and struggles to overcome the handicap of having three main characters who are, by design, highly unpleasant individuals. Nevertheless, the film coaxes its fair share of laughs from an audience sure to be squirming in their seats in discomfort, while the film’s outrageous ending almost makes the slow ramp-up worthwhile.

Proponents of mail order brides of course can’t guarantee love at first sight. About the best they can hope for is that both suitor and bride alike will grow on each other; much like “Mail Order Bride” gradually grows on its audience.

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