This well made “mockumentary” really captures a lot of the devices that are used in real life documentaries. The tale of Adrian Martin ordering Asian bride Lichi seems like it might have been enough for a narrative film. The fact that this is all supposedly being documented by Andrew Gurland, takes an interesting turn when things between Adrian and Lichi go awry and she shacks up with Andrew. Things even take a further spin when Lichi goes back overseas and it seems like she’s running a game on all of her would be suitors.
Amidst all of this is a “play it straight” type of comedy that makes the film work. I am not sure how widely this movie was released, but it’s the kind of film that seems destined to have a long shelf life on DVD. The fact that it mixes different cultures and different ethnicities, all while being grounded in well acted subtle humor is a real achievement for all involved.
Deleted Scenes, Audition Sequences and Supporting Character Segments
Deleted Scenes (of which there are 6 on this DVD) are tough for me to watch, especially in a mock documentary mainly because I think they can lessen the original film. We get to see the characters in scenes that were cut, and the reason they were probably cut is because of the acting. How can you then go back to watching the original film and not think about this? The Audition Sequences and Supporting Character Segments were interesting, simply because we get to learn a bit more about the characters we are are watching, only we don’t get to see them as their characters. We can see them as the real people they are and as a result it didn’t effect my thoughts on them in the movie as a whole.
Director/Actor’s Commentary Track
This is a commentary track with Directors Andrew Gurland, Huck Botko and Actress Eugenia Yuan. I found this commentary to be pretty bland. As to be expected, Gurland leads the conversation with Botko not far behind and I wonder why Yuan is even there. For as much as she talks, not that she doesn’t have something to say, it just seems like she may have been better served staying at home. I am just so sick of commentary tracks where Directors take themselves so seriously. They explain all the shots and everything else when I would just rather hear them tell stories.
Anamorphic Widescreen. 1.78:1. This film looks like all the documentary movies that we are currently seeing, and while in some cases this could be a problem, my feeling is that this was the filmmakers intent. As a result, we are able to lose ourselves in this “fake” world and feel as if we are really seeing something that has been captured for the first time. While I am sure that great pains have been taken to make this film look the way it does, it really has a the little things that help us along when we watch documentary films.
English Dolby Digital 5.1. Close Captioned. Spanish Subtitles. This film sounds pretty good, though I did find I had to turn up my TV set a bit louder than I normally do. As this film is supposed to be capturing life as it happens, it can also get away with not sounding that great (even though those parts are rare) because these moments on screen are supposed to be spontaneous, even though there probably was a lot of preparation that went into this film. Eugenia Yuan is very talented in the role of Lichi just because her silence at times speaks volumes.
The cover of this DVD looks a bit budget but I wonder if that was the point? It features Adrian, Lichi and Andrew sitting in a car together. This picture of discontent from all the parties perfectly captures this scene in the film. The back features more pictures from the movie, a small description of the film, a cast list, a “blink and you’ll miss it” extras listing and some technical specs. While I think they could have done something to make this cover a bit more appealing (there’s just too much white!), there’s something about it that speaks to the whole “mail order” vibe of the film.
Mail Order Wife is a very well done film. It never strays from the story it is trying to tell, even when the actions on screen are purely comedic. Everyone plays this just right, without calling attention to the fact that by doing this they are enhancing the humor. All the actors, even in the smaller roles are well done. I especially love how they captured Adrian’s apartment. It feels almost like we have entered a tomb where light is only being allowed in after a number of years. This darkness really effects (in a good way) the home video feel this movie seems to be going for.
I look forward to seeing what other films Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland make next. With friends like Doug Liman backing them, I am sure that making another film won’t be a problem.
Mail Order Wife was released February 1, 2005.