Not the Hispanic remake of Brokeback Mountain starring Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna that its title would suggest, Cowboy del Amor is a quirky documentary about the most colorful matchmaker since Dolly Levi. Ivan “The Cowboy Cupid” Thompson herds lovelorn gringos across the border and fixes them up with eager (sometimes too eager) Mexican brides. A happy couple offers a sincere testimonial but—call me a cynic—it’s just a straight business transaction. We see Thompson accompany Bachelor No. 1 on a 12-hour bus ride to Torreón, place a personal ad in the local paper, and set up camp in a fleabag motel to interview (with the aid of a translator) desperate housewives-to-be. She gets a green card, he gets a live-in maid with benefits, Thompson gets $3,000. Everybody wins.
A 60-year-old eccentric with a knack for self-promotion, Thompson makes an engaging documentary subject. But his plainspoken charm and cornpone shtick can’t dispel the film’s lingering aftertaste of exploitative condescension. (His habit of comparing women to animals doesn’t help: His work is “just like going fishing,” he says. “You don’t know if anything’s going to bite.”) Still, you have to admire a guy with the gumption to defuse critics of his chosen profession by saying, “Christ got criticism for his.” Can I get an amen?