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By Merle Bertrand | January 10, 2000

Most guys who would never in a million years even think about taking out a personal ad have at least given those “Mail Order Bride” ads a cursory glance…and wondered. After all, while the beefy, hairy armpitted East German swimmer is one Russian/Eastern European female stereotype, the other is the icy cool Slavic sex-goddess. Think of any Soviet/Russian figure skater. Now place yourself in the middle of a remote hard scrabble lumber village and imagine perusing a whole catalogue of these sultry women, desperate to escape Mother Russia and its horde of broken down vodka-swilling future pensioners. Wouldn’t YOU be tempted to give it a shot? Chick and the boys sure think so. Together with Matt (Dale Inghram), Red Dog (Elmer Cardinal), and the other denizens of “The Dirty Shame Bar,” Chick (an excellently smarmy Randall Godwin) launches a scheme to land their hard-drinking, foul-mouthed redneck buddy Jake (Vincent Angelini) a Russkie bride…without his knowledge. When the beautiful Viktoria (Natalia Nazarova) arrives in Paradise, MI from the Ukraine unaware of the ruse, she finds herself fending off a crude pass from Jake, who drunkenly thinks she’s a hooker Chick bought for him. Barely able to speak English, broke and stuck in the States, thanks to the one-way ticket Chick bought her, Viktoria takes refuge with Reenie (Tantoo Cardinal), a cynical and pragmatic bartender pining for her semi-estranged daughter. Bonding quickly, Reenie soon lands the resilient Ukrainian beauty a job at the bar, complete with a tip jar dedicated to Viktoria’s plane ticket fund. When Viktoria proves herself to be more than capable of holding her own with the rough-hewn but lovable locals, the folks of Paradise and eventually even Jake, take to their exotic guest. It’s an affinity that becomes increasingly mutual, and soon the question is not “Will she go back?” but “How can we get her to stay?” “Postmark Paradise” is one of those fine, well-crafted films that pops up on the festival circuit, only to sadly slip away into obscurity. That’s a shame because Thompson Clay’s heartwarming and surprisingly unpredictable family dramedy deserves better than that. It’s undoubtedly a bit heavy in its Rockwellian idealism, what with every character having a heart of gold and all, but that’s okay. In fact, maybe that’s why this film rang so true. The people of Paradise resemble the folks in the small town where I grew up. I don’t remember any hard-core villains there and usually when somebody screwed up, they tried to make amends. Same here, and it plays beautifully. Nazarova’s a bit too cutesy at times, but that’s a small quibble. I bet if American men knew that we’d meet someone like Viktoria if we answered one of those Mail Order Bride ads, Yeltsin would REALLY be pounding his nuclear shoe on the podium. Chechnya? Forget it. He’d be pissed cause we’d be swiping all the Russian women.

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