First-time director John Jeffcoat's fish-out-of-water comedy, cowritten with George Wing (FIFTY FIRST DATES), finds gentle humor in outsourcing and tin-eared cultural misunderstandings.
Seattle-based Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) supervises a telephone fulfillment center for Western Novelties, purveyor of tacky gewgaws for tasteless cheapskates. He hates his job, but he's good at it, so it comes as a shock when his boss (Matt Smith) announces that Todd's entire department is being fired and their jobs outsourced. Todd still has a job, but it involves going to India to train his replacement. From the get-go, Todd and India don't hit it off: He hates the heat and the crowds, the food disagrees with him and man, does he want a cheeseburger! He's not xenophobic, exactly: He just doesn't get the way they do things, and he's struggling in his efforts to get his new staff to disguise their Anglo-Indian accents, make small talk but get customers off the phone quickly and assure them that they're actually talking to sales reps in Chicago. Despite the rocky start, Todd quickly begins to see the employees who man Western Novelties' half-constructed call center as people — bright, charming people trying to improve their lives. Todd's replacement, Puro (Asif Basra), is hardworking and eager to learn, and Asha (Ayesha Dharker) is funny, whip-smart and carefully juggling her parents' traditional expectations with her own more modern ambitions.
While Wing and Jeffcoat's screenplay hits all the familiar notes — it's no surprise that Wing's agents tried to set it up as a studio feature — Hamilton and Dharker have genuine chemistry. Their flirtation doesn't end up as it would have in a conventional American film, nor does Todd's gradual surrender to India's sights, sounds and cultural attitudes proceed as obviously as it might have. OUTSOURCED is a sweet, good-natured surprise that takes the cliches out of an overworked genre and makes them seem almost fresh and entirely charming. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh