[Contains work-cubicle Murtis and SPOILERS!!!]
There were several times during the first act of Outsourced (2006) that I felt like turning it off and putting something less irritating on instead… but I’m glad I saw it through to the end, because it does improve a lot once it settles down and stops trying to impress the audience like a nervous new kid at school. Basically, whenever the script tried to be overtly FUNNY or DRAMATIC, I felt a stabbing pain in my brain, but when it came to the calmer, sweeter, quasi-spiritual moments, it could actually be quite affecting. In fact, I’d argue it might have worked a lot better as a silent movie, since so many of the best scenes were largely dialogue-free.
The idea of weaving an upbeat rom-com around the outsourcing of American jobs to foreign countries seemed like a bit of a non-starter to me… at least for a movie ostensibly aimed at an American audience… but somehow the charm and beauty of its two leading ladies, Mother India and Ayesha Dharker, take the curse off this rather ill-advised premise, even if the supposed “hero” of the movie, ‘Todd Anderson’ (Josh Hamilton), came off as bit of a dick in comparison. I mean, his company sends him to a foreign country to help train up the locals, and he knows he’ll be living there for a lengthy period of time, but still doesn’t feel the slightest motivation to pick up a guide book, or learn a single word of the indigenous language on the journey over! Feh!
I know that’s all in service of the movie’s “fish out of water” jokes, and well-intentioned edutainment agenda… but it didn’t exactly endear me to the dude, y’know? I actually groaned out-loud when Dharker’s character (‘Asha’, a smart and assertive member of his new customer service team) suggested straight-out that he should learn about Indian culture before trying to teach them how to be more “American”. I mean, I agreed with her, but the way she said it was so grindingly on-the-nose! Then, he had a chance-encounter with a veteran ex-pat who told him the exact same thing, just in case they hadn’t hammered it home hard enough. Sigh…
But, as I say, the quieter moments where Todd opens his eyes and his heart to the wonders and splendour around him were the real highlights of the movie, and pure catnip to an Indophile like myself. I also appreciated the ambiguity surrounding his relationship with Asha… there’s clearly an attraction there, and they do eventually hook up, but she’s engaged to some unseen suitor (by a long-established parental arrangement), and he ends up getting fired and sent back to the States, after a lame plot-twist in which all the Indians’ jobs are then outsourced to China instead*. So, do they ever see each other again, or not? The final scene leaves that question unanswered, but ends on a hopeful note… so a tip of the hat for that, I guess. I’m still curious to see the short-lived (and rather contentious) TV spin-off sometime… though, I’m not in any rush, since it won’t have the same gorgeous scenery and authentic locations to make up for the dodgy premise and lame jokes.
P.S. A few weeks ago I also watched The Terrorist (1999), but couldn’t really come up with anything to say about it… beyond the fact that it’s a good film, with a fantastic central performance by Dharker, and a storytelling style that’s a little too sparse and abstract for my tastes.
* Which might have worked quite well in a more scathing satire, but just came off as unnecessary here. Then again, the “making of” featurette suggests that the production ran out of money while they were filming on location, and the director/co-writer had to cut seven pages of script, so it’s possible they had a better ending written, and just couldn’t film it?