"Mail Order Wife" is a toughie. Clever, believable and disturbing, this documentary takes a look at the relationship between a mail order bride and two men, one of whom likes to abuse her, the other who wants to love her. However, there's one catch: "Mail Order Wife" is not real. It looks like a documentary, it feels like a documentary, but it isn't a documentary, and that's where the problem lies.
"Mail Order Wife" is a mockumentary, which by the very name suggests a spoof on documentaries. Christopher Guest's movies ("Best in Show," "A Mighty Wind") are the most relevant examples. Furthermore, IMDB lists "Mail Order Wife" as a comedy. Unfortunately, while "Mail Order Wife" has its moments of perfectly-timed comedy, it is so realistic it is hard to laugh. Ultimately, the movie plays out like a documentary so well there isn't anything remarkable to show for it. That doesn't make much sense, but it's true. It's meant to be funny in a dark way, but I didn't laugh. Why would I want to watch it again?
The movie features a documentary filmmaker named Andrew (Andrew Gurland) who helps finance the purchase of a mail order bride named Lichi (Eugenia Yuan) by another man named Adrian (Adrian Martinez) in exchange for the rights to film the development of their relationship. Trouble ensues when Andrew realizes that Adrian is forcing Lichi to act in sex videos for him and he decides to help Lichi out. They themselves get married, but she doesn't love him - she just wants citizenship. Unfortunately for Andrew, he has become smitten with her and his futile attempts to win her back begin to show his obsessive nature.
Sounds funny, doesn't it? "Mail Order Wife" takes pride in that it is realistic enough to be taken seriously while it quietly throws in strange and occasionally absurd things to shock the audience. Written and directed by Huck Botko and Robert Capelli Jr., the movie looks very nice and plays out like a real documentary. Still, the problem is that it isn't dark enough to entertain the audience in that way, and it definitely isn't funny enough to make the audience laugh. Technically, it's a very good movie, but it has nothing to motivate people to enjoy the story. I liked it, but have no interest in ever watching it again.
The only reason I would recommend "Mail Order Wife" is if you want to play a trick on your friends. While it wouldn't be the most hilarious joke in the world, you could disturb some of your more fragile friends by making them think they're watching a real documentary. Of course, that would probably mean you'd have to watch the movie again.
"Mail Order Wife" is not a bad movie, but it never seems to fully grasp what it is trying to accomplish. If it was meant to be humorous, most of the jokes went right over my head. It might make an okay rental, but I wouldn't bother buying a movie ticket.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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