A Foreign Affair

on May 07, 2004 by Annlee Ellingson
In this digitally shot hybrid, helmer Helmut Schleppi and writer Geert Heetebrij explore the world of Russian romance tours by on the one hand interviewing the actual American men who purchase the service and on the other fictionalizing the experience through the much more likable Jake and Josh Adams (Tim Blake Nelson and David Arquette), two farm boys who find they are unable to fend for themselves when their mama dies. Rather than invest in a maid, Jake determines it would be more fiscally responsible to requisition a mail-order bride.

A stickler for honesty, Jake is bluntly upfront about what he wants in a wife: a plain face, modest hobbies, willingness to live on a farm, no familial ties--no sex required. Nelson shines in a shameless performance, a rare leading role for the talented thespian and film director in his own right. Undercover journalist Angela (Emily Mortimer) at first is disgusted by him as a subject but ultimately comes around to appreciate his candor. Meanwhile, Josh, finally out from under his mother's thumb, goes about finding a mate the old-fashioned way: hitting the clubs. Arquette's character is a goofy one, per usual. In the end the experience challenges the brothers' perceptions about women and relationships and allows them to finally achieve independence from each other.

Filmed with the cooperation of an actual company that specializes in marrying off Russian women, “A Foreign Affair's” premise is amusing enough, if not particularly illuminating. What is much more interesting is the other men on the tour--the real-life romance tourists here visited only briefly. This is a topic screaming for serious documentary treatment. Starring Tim Blake Nelson, David Arquette, Emily Mortimer, Lois Smith, Larry Pine and Megan Follows. Directed by Helmut Schleppi. Written by Geert Heetebrij. Produced by Tonneke Bijker-van Belzen. No distributor set. Comedy/drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 90 min.

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